Tag Archives: climate change

PODCAST: how can we protect people who migrate as a way of adapting to climate change?

One of the most talked about topics in the field of climate and migration is the idea of migration as adaptation. In this podcast we argue that for many people migration may be their most viable way of adapting. However we also argue that this can open up a new set of risks for migrants including exploitation in new work places. If migration is truely to become an empowering way for people to adapt, states must act to protect the welfare of people who move.

This podcast is roughly based on a presentation we made at the recent IOM consultations in Geneva.

Key points made in the podcast:

  • Migration is increasingly becoming a way that some communities adapt to climate change impacts. Regardless of the policy debate, people are already using migration as a coping strategy.
  • We argued that there are several measures that could enable more people to use migration as a way of adapting to a changing climate. Key among these is education in rural areas. This could enable people to leave badly hit agricultural areas and seek work in other locations.
  • We also pointed to several challenges that the idea of migration as adaptation presents. We organised these roughly into issues faced by sending communities and issues faced by migrants.
  • For example when people leave a household, this can move important responsibilities – such as child care – onto other household members. This could result in older members of the household having to care for children. Or children bearing more responsibility for younger children, which could affect their education.
  • We therefore made the case that as migration as adaptation becomes a matter of policy, projects must not ignore the people who are left behind.
  • We further made the case that people who move as an adaptive response to climate change may not face fundamentally different challenges to other kinds of migrants. For example as people move from rural areas to cities, they may face issues such as poor housing, exploitation by employers and poor access to services.
  • Again, we made the case that as migration as adaptation become a matter of policy – rather than an ad-hoc coping strategy – additional efforts must be made to combat the challenges faced by migrants moving into cities.

Image: Rakib Hasan Sumon, Creative Commons – (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) Railway station in Dhaka, Bangldesh. flic.kr/p/kwVF8e

Alex Randall is the project manager of the Climate Change and Migration Coalition. He is author of a number of the Coalition’s reports, as well as numerous blogs and comment pieces.

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New book – how organizations deal with climate & migration

We have a chapter in a new book Organizational Perspectives on Environmental Migration. The book is a collection of chapters exploring how organisations have responded to migration and displacement linked to environmental change. Academics and practitioners explore how environmental migration has shaped the work of their organizations and projects. The book is edited by François Gemenne and Kerstin Rosenow-Williams.

Our chapter looks specifically at our campaigning and advocacy work. The chapter looks at how green and climate change campaign groups have engaged with the issues. It make several key points

  • Different parts of the green movement have created very different ‘stories’ about migration linked to climate change. Different groups have constructed different ideas of who and what environmental migrants are.
  • Some see them as a threat and security risk. Others have painted them as desperate people in need of pity and humanitarian assistance. Few have explored the full spectrum of human movement that might be created by climate change, or the wishes and opinions of affected communities.
  • Climate change organizations often highlight climate linked migration as a way of galvanising public support for policies to reduce carbon emissions, however this has generally not be effective.
  • Environmental organizations have sometime allied themselves with unusual groups – such as military think tanks when claiming that migration linked to climate change could be a new driver for armed violence.
  • This has also created a tension between climate and refugee / migrant civil society groups. With the refugee and migrant groups seeing the climate organizations seeing green groups as painting vulnerable people as a threat.

However, we conclude that there is great potential for climate organizations and refugee and migrant NGOs to work together on areas of shared interest. Especially around climate policy and humane immigration and refugee policy. However this must be built up gradually on a shared understanding of the reality of migration linked to climate change, and its complexity.

Alex Randall is the project manager of the Climate Change and Migration Coalition. He is author of a number of the Coalition’s reports, as well as numerous blogs and comment pieces.

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Image: 350 .org / Moth Dust – www.mothdust.net. From Flickr. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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Podcast: The Pacific – migrating to adapt to climate change

People in the Pacific are increasingly using migration as a way of protecting their livelihoods in the face of climate change. At the moment many are using temporary migration to help their communities adapt. But what happens when climate change means people have to move permanently? And what can be done to protect the rights of people who move? We interview Sophia Kagan who works with the International Labor Organisation about their work on migration and climate change in the Pacific.


Credits:

Music: Chris Zabriskie, Creative Commons – bit.ly/1GbjnOG. Image: Luigi Guarino, Creative Commons bit.ly/1Mw92hJ

Alex Randall is the project manager of the Climate Change and Migration Coalition. He is author of a number of the Coalition’s reports, as well as numerous blogs and comment pieces.

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Not the end for displacement at the Paris climate talks

This week many people have been worried that any discussion of displacement and migration might be gone from the Paris climate change talks.

Over the past few months a draft agreement has been hammered out in a series of smaller meetings. World leaders will then meet in Paris to negotiate on the final version. Of course leaders and their civil servants may radically alter the draft agreement over the two weeks of negotiations. But the draft of the agreement they start with is still vitally important.

There have been several versions of this draft text over the past year. It has changed after each interim meeting as states try to agree reach agreement. But if you look back at any of them you’ll find this paragraph:

Provisions for establishing a climate change displacement coordination facility that:

  • Provides support for emergency relief;
  • Assists in providing organized migration and planned relocation;
  • Undertakes compensation measures.

This paragraph has gone from the latest version of the text. This lead to many fearing that the issue of climate linked displacement was gone from the Paris climate negotiations. Clearly it is not good that this paragraph no longer forms part of the agreement states will begin negotiating in Paris. In fact a huge amount of specific detail has been removed between the current draft and the previous draft. The drafts produced in February and June were over 80 pages long. The current draft is 20 pages. Getting the draft agreement down to roughly this size is a vital part of producing an agreement that stands a chance of success.

However we should not see the paragraph’s removal as a mere formality. The paragraph on displacement was supported by many of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It was supported by many of the poorest countries, who are likely to suffer the consequences unchecked climate change. For many of these countries climate-linked displacement is a very real problem. Wealthier or high emitting countries possibly saw the paragraph as creating a number of obligations. Firstly a financial obligation, to assist during disasters. Secondly, the beginnings of an obligation to allow entry into their countries for people forced to move by climate impacts.

However this is short sighted of states that have pushed for the removal of the displacement paragraph. The paragraph calls for coordination and organisation. The hope of the paragraph was that human movement linked to climate change might happen in an organised way, rather than in a chaotic and disordered way. If we’ve learned anything in Europe over past few months it that when displacement happens, it is far better for governments to be coordinated and organised. Chaos benefits no one.

I asked Koko Warner – who has been deeply involved in the the UN process for many years –  about the missing  paragraph. Her argument is that we should not see this as the end of the line. There are still a number of reasons to be hopeful about the presence of migration and displacement in the Paris talks. Removing specific detail doesn’t necessarily mean that the proposals can’t be reintroduced. It may be that a state will attempt to re-insert the deleted paragraph during the negotiations in Paris. Walter Kalin –  a leading humanitarian and international law expert – shared a similar reflection. A paragraph’s deletion is not the end, if there is broad enough support it can be reintroduced at a later stage.

But we must begin to ask: what happens if the paragraph is not in the agreement?

The absence of this paragraph from the final agreement doesn’t prevent states reaching agreement on the climate linked displacement in the future. The absence of the displacement paragraph means there is more space for states to drag their feet, or object entirely. But this will be the case with many aspects of the agreement. Any global agreement amounting to only a few tens of pages will inevitably create hundreds of areas that require states to meet again and negotiate more detailed plans. In the absence of the displacement paragraph we can hope that the Paris talks lay the groundwork for future coordination between states on displacement linked to climate change – even if the final text itself does not contain the concrete proposals for how this can happen.

The Paris climate talks are not the only show in town when it comes to climate linked displacement and migration. The issue of human movement linked to climate change touches on so many different areas of international cooperation that trying to address the issue in one agreement may not work.

Here are just a few international agreement that have a bearing on migration and displacement linked to climate change:

  • This year states agreed the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction. The Framework outlines how states will cooperate to reduce the impact of disasters. The agreement “contains important language on displacement linked to climate change.
  • The Nansen Initiative is a state led process currently creating a new framework protecting people displaced across borders by disasters, including the impacts of climate change.
  • The vast majority of climate linked displacement will take place within countries. People will not cross international borders. They should be protected by the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. There is work to be done making sure states properly adhere to these principal during episodes of displacement.

These international agreements do not mean we can be complacent about Paris. Rather, they show us that this year’s climate negotiations are not the only chance for creating policies that will protect people at risk of displacement due to the impacts of climate change.

Alex Randall is the project manager of the Climate Change and Migration Coalition. He is author of a number of the Coalition’s reports, as well as numerous blogs and comment pieces.

Image: Sean X Liu (CC BY-SA 2.0) from Flickr.

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Video / presentation: climate change and the refugee crisis

The unfolding refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East has left many people asking whether the situation is related to climate change. Several media reports have drawn connections between climate change and the onset of conflict in Syria.

Alex Randall is the project manager of the Climate Change and Migration Coalition. He is author of a number of the Coalition’s reports, as well as numerous blogs and comment pieces.

Images: Chrisser (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) from Flcikr

Jey OH photographie from Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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Briefing Q&A: climate change and the refugee crisis

Watch a video version of this briefing

The unfolding refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East has left many people asking whether the situation is related to climate change. Several media reports have drawn connections between climate change and the current crisis, and predicted that similar crises might unfold more often in the future as the planet warms. As one of the world’s only organisations dedicated to the issue, we have produced this briefing which explores the relationship between climate change and human movement. It aims to set climate change in context along with the many other drivers of human movement.

 

What is the relationship between climate change and human movement?

Natural disasters across the world displaced 22 million people in 2014. Most of the displacement was created by weather related disasters. There are important connections between climate change and the movement of people.

When people are forced to move by the impacts of climate change, they usually move internally rather than across international borders.

In response to sudden disasters such as floods and typhoons, which are increasingly exacerbated by climate change, people often move a short distance to the nearest place of safety within their own country, and often return after the disaster during reconstruction.

“The water came at night and we didn’t have time to save our belongings; we had to chose whether to save our children and ourselves or our property and assets, so we chose to save our kids. We left everything and ran to save our lives.”
Unnamed survivor of the 2010 floods (World Food Programme)

In response to slowly unfolding climate change impacts such as droughts, people often move to find alternative work as their livelihoods are eroded. People usually move within their own country rather than crossing international borders. As agricultural livelihoods are degraded, people often move from rural to urban areas where alternative work is available. Rather than entire families moving together, one or two individuals will move at a time.

In some cases, both sudden and slowly unfolding weather-related disasters can create movement across borders. However, this is usually only the case when several other forces are at play. Cross border migration is more likely to happen when a climate linked disaster is combined with other political factors such as conflict or persecution.

“And since there was the war, we did not receive any support from the government. Therefore, there are combined factors that made us suffer: droughts and war. If war did not exist, then we might have been able to stay, but now that the land is looted, there is no way for us to claim it.”
Somali farmer, Nakiavale Settlement, Uganda (UNHCR / UNU)

In the future, climate change is most likely to create patterns of migration and displacement that follow these existing patterns. There have been a number of media reports suggesting that climate change might create future crises like the one currently taking place in Europe and the Middle East.

However it is clear that most future climate-linked migration is likely to be internal and short distance rather than across continents.


podcast_iconPodcast: understanding slow and rapid on set disasters. Listen to our podcast exploring testimonies from people moving due to climate linked events.


report_iconMoving Stories: testimonies from people who in the context of climate change. Testimonies and analysis exploring the links between climate and migration.


report_iconMyth buster: climate change, migration and displacement. What we know and what we don’t know about the links between climate and migration


 

Are any of the refugees entering Europe fleeing the impacts of climate change?

Whilst climate change is increasingly a driver of internal displacement, most of the people currently entering Europe are fleeing the conflict in Syria. Others are fleeing from conflict and human rights abuses in other countries such as Afghanistan and Eritrea. However some research suggests a connection between climate change and the drought that immediately preceded the conflict in Syria. The main driver behind recent increases in the numbers of people fleeing relates to the worsening of the violence in Syria, and the deteriorating situation in many of the refugee camps along the Syrian border.


analysis2Climate change and the situation in the Mediterranean​. Our analysis explores the key drivers behind the increased number of people crossing the Med


analysis2 Climate change and the refugee situation in Calais​. This analysis examines claims in the media that there is a climate dimension the refugee situation in Calais


 

Was the war in Syria caused by drought and the impacts of climate change?

The causes of the four-year conflict in Syria are primarily political. Key among these was the attempt in 2011 to overthrow the Assad regime, which subsequently descended into an ongoing civil war. Some recent research suggested that a prolonged drought just before the 2011 uprising may have been an important factor, but it should be seen as only one contributing factor.


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Infographic: Understanding the connections between climate and conflict This infographic explores and critiques the possible links


analysis2

Analysis: Climate change and the Syria conflict Researchers have claimed an important drought. We examine the findings in detail.


analysis2

Analysis: Evidence linking climate change and armed violence Academics currently disagree on the role of climate change and conflict. Find out why.


analysis2

Analysis: Climate change, terrorism and the rise of ISIS. Media reports have pointed to climate change as a driver of terrorism. We examine the claims.


 

How should we respond?

We support a series of legal and political responses that are designed to support and protect people who might be displaced by climate impacts, or who may want to move as a way of adapting to climate change. The need to create safe and legal routes for people to move are at the heart of these responses. This applies to both the current European situation and future displacement and migration that might occur in response to climate change.

  1. New international initiatives allowing people to move after disasters. The Nansen Initiative proposes creating a new ‘protection agenda’ in which states would agree to allow people to cross international borders after natural disasters. The agreement which is currently being developed represents the most promising way of allowing people to move legally and safely after disasters – including disasters that are linked to climate change.
  2. Migration as Adaptation to climate change. In the face of slowly unfolding climate change impacts, people may need to migrate as a way of adapting to climate change. There are a great deal of international negotiations regarding Adaptation, including the upcoming UN Paris meeting, and many argue that migration must be recognised as a valid form of adaptation.
  3. Using and modifying existing laws to help people move after disasters. Governments also have several existing options that they should use more readily to assist people who need to cross borders after disasters. For example, many countries have offered temporary humanitarian visas to people who have been forced to move by disasters.
  4. Protecting the rights of internally displaced people. Existing international agreements already protect the rights of people who are forced to move internally by disasters or conflict. The key agreement is the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. Governments will increasingly need to act during climate-linked disasters to ensure that the Principles are properly applied.

report_iconBriefing: Protecting the rights of people who move in the context of climate change


report_iconReport: Migration as Adaptation to climate change


For more information contact please email us: alex.randall[at]climateoutreach.org.uk

Download this briefing as a PDF. 

Alex Randall is the project manager of the Climate Change and Migration Coalition. He is author of a number of the Coalition’s reports, as well as numerous blogs and comment pieces.

Images: Chrisser (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) from Flcikr

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New book: stop climate crimes – the call of civil society. Our chapter explores migration and climate change

Stop climate crimes - book with chapter on migration, displacement and climate change. Alex Randall (UKCCMC) and Francios Gemene

Alex Randall (UKCCMC) and François Gemenne (University of Versailles / SciencesPo)
have authored a chapter for the new book Crime climatique stop, L’appel de la société civile (Stop climate crime, A call from civil society).

In the chapter the authors explore how climate change is affecting some of the world’s most vulnerable people and forcing them from their homes. The chapter contains testimonies gathered by the Climate Change and Migration Coalition, which also featured in our Moving Stories publication.

Other chapter authors include Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben and Vandana Shiva. The book is edited by 350.org and Attac France and published by Le Seuil (In French).

The Chapter opens: “In 2013 , natural disasters forced 22 million people to flee their homes. A number that exceeds the ‘political’ refugees in the legal sense of the term, those forced to leave their homes because of violence and persecution, and whose number stands at 16.9 million. This figure does not include those displaced by the more progressive impacts of climate change, the number of which is currently impossible to estimate.”

Alex Randall is the project manager of the Climate Change and Migration Coalition. He is author of a number of the Coalition’s reports, as well as numerous blogs and comment pieces.

The book is available from the Attac France website – €20

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Climate change and terrorism: understanding the political narrative

Several prominent commentators have drawn connections between climate change and the rise of ISIS. US Democrat hopeful Martin O’Malley claimed that climate change has lead to the “extreme poverty that has led now to the rise of ISIL and this extreme violence”. John Kerry also argued that climate change would exacerbate Europe’s migration “crisis” and lead to the spread of extremism.

Climate change sceptics and Republicans were quick to respond.

This argument is interesting for several reasons reasons. O’Malley and others who have made the connection are partly correct. There are connections between climate change and armed violence. They are only partly right, and their assertions are simplistic. But by presenting this (simplistic) case they have enraged the climate change sceptics on the US Right. But the narrative linking climate change and terrorism is mainly designed by Democrats to convince the sceptical US right wing of the need for action on climate change.

So, is there a link between climate change and ISIS?

The short answer is somewhere between “sort of” and “maybe”. Here is how the argument goes. Climate change has lead to more drought. Syria encountered a prolonged drought over the last decade. And there is good evidence that the severity of the Syrian drought was increased by human caused climate change. Rural agricultural livelihood were degraded and people could no longer support themselves. Many moved into Syria’s cities in the hope of finding work. This is a common pattern of internal migration linked to climate change.

Many of the new arrivals found themselves living in appalling slum-like conditions. Anger grew at the regime’s many failings and human rights abuses. Including the failure to deal properly with the drought. Anger and a larger number of people living in urban poverty provided the conditions for the start of an uprising against the regime.

It seems fair to link climate change, the Syrian drought and the initial uprising. (Read our analysis of the research behind these connections).

The uprising began as a secular movement hoping to topple the Syrian regime. But rapidly descended into a sectarian war. What began as a popular uprising demanding democracy, was replaced by a battle between extremist groups and the Assad regime. The path from the uprising into sectarian civil war had little to do with climate change.

Several political factors made this transition from uprising to civil war possible. It isn’t be possible to give an exhaustive or detailed account of these factors. But it is worth pointing to a few to demonstrate the interplay between climatic and political factors.

The presence of ISIS in Iraq

After the invasion of Iraq the US and their allies failed to create security forces capable of retaining control of the country. They also failed to create democratic institutions that most Iraqi citizens viewed as fair or legitimate.

The US made much of the new one million strong Iraqi security services it had put in place. The reality was that this new force was incapable of dealing with ISIS. Corruption and desertion often handed ISIS easy victories. ISIS took the cities of Falluja and Mosul with more ease than many expected. Having gained strength in Iraq there was little to stop the flow of people and weapons between Iraq and Syria. The initial uprising in Syria may have been partly caused by climate change. But the unstable situation in Iraq was key to the uprising descending into a protracted conflict involving ISIS.

Climate change and the rise of ISIS

Damascus, Syria in 2007. Neil Hester, Creative Commons, Flickr.

The presence of weapons and funding

Several wealthy countries have fuelled the violence by funding and supporting opposition groups. In some cases funding has been knowingly given to terrorist organisations in the hope they will topple the Assad regime.

The UK and US have consistently funded opposition fighters. Although ISIS were never directly handed weapons by the UK or US, much of the military hardware has ended up in the hands of ISIS. The conflict in Syria is not simply between a united group of rebels and the Assad regime. Several non-state actors are also at war with each other, including ISIS. During this inter-group warfare ISIS have captured weaponry that was intended for the fight against the Assad regime.

Other countries have also contributed to the flow of weapons and money into Syria. Wealthy individuals within Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Kuwait have funded violent groups across the middle east. Including in Syria in the hope of deposing Assad. The governments of those countries have failed to intervene and control this flow of cash. Again much of this funding has intentionally or accidentally ended up in the hands of ISIS.
Again, this flow of cash and weaponry has little to do with climate change. The initial conditions for the uprising have a climate change connection. But the path from secular uprising to protracted civil war had other political, military and financial causes.

Why have prominent US politicians been making the climate – ISIS connection?

In the US the most powerful predictor for acceptance of climate change is political belief. Knowing someone’s political persuasion is the surest way of predicting whether they think climate change is real or not. Democrats are – in general – advocates for tackling climate change. For Republicans climate scepticism has become a political badge of honour.

Democrat politicians are searching for a compelling climate change narrative to convince the sceptical Republican right. A key issue they’ve hit on is the connection between climate change and national security. National security is a key Republican issue (more than it is a Democrat issue). By connecting climate change and national security, they hope to soften Republican opposition to their climate policies. Linking climate change to rise of ISIS is part of this strategy.

By presenting climate change as a force that might give rise to new terrorist groups that threaten America’s national security, they hope to win Republican support for action on climate change. Or perhaps at least reach a point of cross party agreement on climate change enjoyed by many other countries.
But it is difficult to say how successful this strategy has been. The links between climate change and terrorism are complex and uncertain as we’ve seen. This makes these claims a prime target for climate change sceptics. They have found it fairly easy to pour scorn on the climate – ISIS connection, simply because there are so many other forces involved.

The Obama administration has had a number of key failings in dealing with conflict in the Middle East. Arguably they are the same failings a Republican administration might have made. However the climate sceptic Republicans have framed the Democrat arguments as ‘making excuses’ for their foreign policy failings. In an attempt to create ‘Republican friendly’ climate change narratives the democrats have actually handed their opponents more ammunition.

Alex Randall is the project manager of the Climate Change and Migration Coalition. He is author of a number of the Coalition’s reports, as well as numerous blogs and comment pieces.

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