Tag Archives: climate change

The “climate refugee” court case shows that the asylum system will be fruitless for people moving due to climate impacts

This article was originally published on Responding to Climate Change

New Zealand just refused asylum to Ioana Teitiota. He claimed that climate change had made returning to Kiribati impossible.

Globally, disasters have affected millions of people. Many will want to remain overseas, or move abroad as climate change impacts make their lives harder. But the  asylum system will be a fruitless way of providing safety for such people. We need a new and different approach to migration and development policy.

Ioana Teitiota’s case is unusual. He has moved across an international border and moved a long distance. Most people who move as a result of climate change impacts move within their own countries and tend not to travel far. When people are fleeing sudden climate-linked disasters like floods and typhoons they tend to move to the nearest place of safety. Often an evacuation centre, the homes of friends and relatives, and often to camps.

This is what happened during flooding in Pakistan and after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. When people move because of slowly unfolding disasters like drought or water stress the patterns of movement are different. People will often move alone, rather than with their family or community. They will usually be seeking work in a nearby city as the drought reduces income from farming.

Migration as adaptation

The focus of the climate and migration debate has often been about which countries will or won’t accept new waves of people. But as most of the movement is likely to be internal rather than cross-border, state-level responses are important.

In the case of sudden disasters, city and regional level disaster risk reduction is vital. Other issues emerge when looking as slowly unfolding disasters. When faced with repeated drought of desertification, migration may be the best way for some people adapt to climate change.

Governments often think of migration as a problem that has to be reduced or prevented. Development policy often focuses on helping people where they are and enabling them to stay. But for millions of people migration may be their best adaptation strategy.

When people move away from a drought hit area this can help them, and the community they leave, to  adapt. Out migration means there are fewer people in the disaster prone area. It also means there are fewer people to support from dwindling agricultural income. Migrants will often send remittances back to their family. This income provides some financial stability in the face of wavering income from agriculture. Communities sometime invest remittances in small scale adaptation projects.

Helping out

But what happens when people do cross international borders? As Ioana Teitiota’s case demonstrates, the existing asylum system is unlikely to help. Several considerations are clear:

We should think about people fleeing all disasters.  Any new legal framework should not only help people who are fleeing climate-linked disasters. It should help people who are fleeing any kind of disaster. This would help more people. It would also mean that it wouldn’t matter whether climate change had influenced the disaster.

We should look at existing areas of law that we could easily change. Many countries already have options for people to stay while their countries recover from disasters. This is useless for people whose homes are permanently affected by climate change. But could be a useful interim measure for millions of people who are already working abroad when a disaster strikes.

We should try to reach regional and bilateral agreements, rather than global ones. Six countries around a table is much easier than 192. A small number of countries may be able to produce a regional agreement. This could be quicker than reaching a global agreement. Given that most of the movement is likely to be between nearby countries this makes a lot of sense.

We should try to use existing or emerging international agreements. In 2015 (we hope) governments will reach an agreement on stopping and adapting to climate change. The draft text contains a section asking governments to consider displacement linked to climate change. Or, could the replacement for the Millennium Development goals include provision for migration linked to climate change? Or the new agreement on how governments work together to reduce the risk of disasters? These are all international process that already have momentum. Using them might be quicker and easier than starting a new round of talks.

All of this is cold comfort to Ioana Teitiota who will probably be returned to Kiribati. But it is vital that we consider the questions now to protect people who will move in the future.

Image: NASA.

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Moving Stories: Latin America.

Alex Randall

The Latin American region is one of the most vulnerable to climate change. Many of its countries are located in the hurricane belt; others depend on the thaw of the snow and ice deposits in the Andes to supply water to their urban and agricultural sectors; and several are at high risk from major disasters such as floods. (This is an edited extract from our Moving Stories report. Download the entire report)

Rains recently have been very intense.  Very intense.  Without comparison, like nothing seen before.  Years ago the rainy season lasted two months. November and December.  Water levels reached 20 to 30 Centimetres.  Today, they go past two metres in the last six to seven months.  We’ve never seen this before.  We don’t want to leave our land.  Here are our past, our memories, our ancestors. We don’t want to move to other parts. We don’t know what to do there.  We will turn into delinquents.  We’d enter into a cycle of poverty which happens in the cities. Octavio Rodriguez. Las Caracuchas, Sucre, Colombia

Since 1998, the melting ice from the ice fields in Patagonia has contributed to around 2% of the global annual sea level rise. The region has experienced climate variability and more extreme weather events over recent years, such as intense Venezuelan rainfall (1999, 2005), flooding in Argentina (2000-2002, 2007), Amazon drought (2005), hail storms in Bolivia (2002) and the Greater Buenos Aires area (2006), the unprecedented Hurricane Catarina in the South Atlantic (2004) and the record hurricane season of 2005 in the Caribbean Basin, extreme floods in El Salvador (2011), Tropical storm Matthew in Venezuela (2010) and a series of floods in Colombia (2011).

When I was young, it was quite mild, not such a hot heat. That’s why Illimani is melting. It’s three times as hot. It did not use to be so hot. I am very sad when I see the snowline going up. I don’t want it to be like that. I don’t have any children, but other compañeros in the community, they do have children. They are going to suffer the last days, if there is no water. I am 67 years-old, and I am not going to suffer as I am going to die. But the other villagers, yes they will suffer. That’s why I am so upset that there is not going to be any water. I am going to live another ten to fifteen years, but the others… I am not going to see it. But the young will witness the end of Illimani. 67-year-old Marcos Choque, Khapi, Bolivia

Predicted increases in temperature will severely affect this region and its arable lands. Significantly, 90% of Latin America’s agriculture is rainfed. A survey of rural populations in Peru found that changing rainfall patterns had a ‘severe’ effect on 53% of respondents’ ability to produce food. Other stresses compound the ability of this region to adapt to climatic changes. Demographic pressures as a result of rural to urban migration have led to unemployment and unsanitary conditions, resulting in the spread of infectious diseases.

I am very worried. The snow and ice is disappearing and melting day by day, year by year. The sun is stronger. It doesn’t snow as much. We are very concerned… There could be a tremendous drought. There might be no more snow, no more water coming down. So how would we irrigate our plots of land? My son would have to leave and go somewhere else, to other countries. Lucia Quispe, 38, Khapi, Bolivia


Additionally, over-exploitation is a threat to local production systems and has led to water exploitation and the mismanagement of irrigation systems. Similarly deforestation from agricultural expansion in parts of Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil has caused land degradation. Historically (prior to the 1970s) many Latin American countries were the destination for European migrants and had net immigration situation which has reversed in recent decades.

My grandfather, father and I have worked these lands. But times have changed…the rain is coming later now, so that we produce less. The only solution is to go away, at least for a while. Each year I’m working for 3 to 5 months in Wyoming. That’s my main source of income. But leaving my village forever? No. I was raised here and here I will stay. Miguel, 45 years, Hueyotlipan, Mexico

The debt crisis of the 1980s led to the so called ‘lost decade’; industrialisation growth in the extractive industries and large-scale intensive agriculture were all economic drivers of migration. Flow followthe pattern of urbanisation and emigration to the EU. In 2006 a third of Argentines claimed they would emigrate if they had the resources to do so. In Ecuador the top destination of internal migrants is to newly deforested areas, which are sites of intensive agriculture and jobs. Conflict is another main driver of migratory flows, especially in regards to Columbians fleeing the violence caused by the FARC / government fighting.

The number of government- registered ‘internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) in Colombia rose to 3.9 million in 2010/11, making it the world’s largest internally displaced population. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that migration from the countryside to the cities will continue. Whilst there are inevitably a range of factors that lead people to migrate, the impact of climate change, especially if livelihoods are damaged, may intensify rural-urban migration. The significance of this is that urban areas will need to adapt to both climatic changes and an increase in population.

Thumbnail image. Creative Commons, from Flickr by Richard777 

Sources

Refugees International. (2012). Colombia: Two Years Under Water. [Online Video]. 27 March. Available from: http://bit.ly/13LfUDm. [Accessed 23 August 2013].

Oxfam Bolivia, 2009. Bolivia Climate change, poverty and adaptation. 1st ed. La Paz: Oxfam. Faist, F; Alsher, S, 2009.

EACH-FOR Environmental Change and Forced Migration Scenarios. Mexico case study report. 1st ed. Stockholm: EACH-FOR.

Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, 2010. Climate change: a regional perspective. Unity Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean. 1st ed. Mexico City: ECLAC.

World Bank. 2012. Climate Change: Is Latin America prepared for temperatures to rise 4 degrees?. [ONLINE] Available at: http://bit.ly/VEG3zP. [Accessed 23 August 13].

M.L. Parry, O.F. Canziani, J.P. Palutikof, P.J. van der Linden and C.E. Hanson (eds) (2007). Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press, Chapter 13, 13.2.2.

BBC News. 2011. Central America floods and landslides ‘leave 80 dead’. [ONLINE] Available at: http://bbc.in/pBYYMq. [Accessed 23 August 13].

Garlati , A, 2013. Climate Change and extreme weather events in Latin America: an exposure index. 1st ed. Washington: Inter-American Development Bank.

Hoffman, M; Grigera, A, 2013. Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict in the Amazon and the Andes: Rising Tensions and Policy Options in South America. 1st ed. Washington: Centre for American Progress.

Ho, Raúl, and Andrea Milan (2012). “Where the Rain Falls” project. Case study: Peru.  Results from Huancayo Province, Junín Region. Report No. 5. Bonn: United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS).

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. 2013. Colombia: Improved government response yet to have impact for IDPs. [ONLINE] Available at: http://bit.ly/qCC7y2. [Accessed 23 August 13].

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Moving Stories report: The voices of people who move in the context of environmental

The voices of people who move in the context of environmental change are absent from the debate about how we addresses the issue.

 

Download the Moving Stories report.


MS_flyer

Moving Stories highlights these powerful, inspiring and often traumatic stories. We compiled Testimonies from ten regions across the world. These came from local news reports, academic journals and interviews recorded by NGOs. The stories highlight different kinds of movement affected by slow– and rapid–onset disasters. The stories show us that movement linked to environmental change is different across the world. The stories also reveal that individual decisions to move or stay vary in even response to the same disaster.

“I go to get registered [as an IDP] and they dismiss me. I don’t want to live here. I don’t want my children out on the streets. In my village I have little but I look after my family.”
Pakistan

 

There is no “typical” migrant. Moving Stories shows the reality of migration and environmental change. Some stories show how people have used seasonal and temporary, rather then permanent, movement to adapt. Other stories show that remittances have increased the resilience of people affected by disasters. These testimonies give a human voice to this complex and controversial issue.

“…times have changed … The rain is coming later now, so that we produce less. The only solution is to go away, at least for a while. Each year I’m working for 3 to 5 months in Wyoming. That’s my main source of income.”
Mexico

We don’t have all the answers. But we hope the Moving Stories project helps us to ask better questions about how to address this issue. How can moving become an empowering way for some people to adapt to climate change? What is the role of remittances in building resilience to climate change? Will our existing legal frameworks for protecting the rights of people who move be up to the job in a generation’s time?

“About five years ago the sea ice used to take longer to melt. It lasted about 10 months but now it’s only 8 months. This harms our way of life, our way of hunting, our way of fishing, and our way of travelling from one place to another.”
Nunavut, Canada.

These are all unanswered questions. We designed the Moving Stories project to help everyone consider these questions. If the voices of affected communities are absent from the debate, we have no hope of finding solutions for the people who need them most.

Authors: Alex Randall, Jo Salsbury, Zach White.

Editor: Rebecca Sullivan

 

Download the Moving Stories report.

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Launch event: Moving Stories. 15th January 2014, 12:00

Moving Stories is a project that collects and presents the testimonies of people who move due to climate-linked disasters. These stories are a powerful and moving exploration of migration and displacement linked to climate change.

About the Moving Stories project

The voices of people who move in the context of environmental change are currently absent from the debate about how this issue is addressed. Moving Stories highlights these powerful, inspiring and often traumatic stories.

Testimonies from ten regions across the world have been compiled from local news reports, academic journals and interviews recorded by civil society groups. The stories highlight different kinds of movement affected by slow and rapid onset disasters.

The stories show us that movement linked to environmental change happens very differently in different parts of the world. The stories also reveal that individual decisions to move or stay vary widely even in response to the same disaster. There is no “typical” migrant.

Moving Stories demonstrate the reality of migration and environmental change. A number of stories show how people have used moving seasonally and temporarily, rather than permanently, as a way of adapting to changing environmental conditions. Several stories demonstrate that remittances from other migrants have increased the resilience of people affected by disasters.

Most importantly these testimonies give a human voice to this complex and controversial issue.

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Moving Stories launch event
15th January, 12:00 – 13:30 (GMT+00) London and streamed live online
Overseas Development Institute, 203 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8NJ

Moving Stories is being launched as part of a wider event on migration and climate change organised with the Overseas Development Institute, the Climate Change and Development Knowledge Network and COIN.

Chair:
Sam Bickersteth – Chief Executive, Climate and Development Knowledge Network.
Speakers:
Professor Dominic Kniveton: Professor of Climate Science and Society, University of Sussex
Alex Randall: Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN).
Veena Ravichandran: Senior Research Advisor, Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN).
Nick Rance: Producer, Television Trust for the Environment

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Moving Stories: Indonesia

“Previously the weather change was manageable.  Now the weather in recent years has gotten worse. It has become more difficult to sail the sea, especially for those using rowing boats. The sea is not safe for us anymore.”
Betsina Petikotik, Lermatang, Fisherman, Tanimbar Island

Situated along the Eurasian and Australian tectonic plates, Indonesia has a long history of environmental disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Sumatra and other parts of the archipelago are affected by both the northeast and southwest monsoon and, as a result, suffer from regular floods and landslides. In addition to these environmental challenges, Indonesia is also experiencing the impacts of climate change. The islands of Java and Sumatra, together with Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, which is home to some 9.6 million people, are low lying, and rising sea levels leave these areas more vulnerable to coastal flooding. A recent report by the Asian Development Bank estimated the numbers of Indonesians at risk of coastal flooding by 2050 will be as high as  20.5 million. Rising temperatures will lead to a deterioration in air quality in Jakarta causing increased respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses. Rainfall changes have led to drought in some provinces, which in turn has reduced agricultural production. Equally, in some regions, rainfall has become excessive: torrential rain across Indonesia in January 2013 caused extreme challenges in Jakarta, where 20,000 were forced out of their homes. This rain is reportedly the heaviest since 2007. In parts of Indonesia deforestation has been widespread, exacerbating the effects of climate change and leaving populations more vulnerable to landslides when disasters strike.

ID203S18 World Bank

“I live on the island of Kapoposang in Matiro, Ujung Village, which is in the Spermonde Archipelago, in South Sulawesi. I have been speargun fishing in these waters since I was a child but now I have noticed changes. Parts of the coral are white and algae has started growing on them. If I consider the coral reefs today there are not as many things to catch. There are fewer fish because the reef is broken. I can spend the whole day motoring around, paddling and swimming, I’ll try everything. Sometimes I don’t catch any fish and we’ll go a whole day without eating any. These days, the coral reefs are around Kapoposang are degrading. If the reefs continue to degrade then there won’t be any fish here. There won’t be anything left for us to do.”
Samysuddin, Speargun Fisherman, Kapoposang, Indonesia

ID110S07 World Bank

The ability of Indonesia to withstand climatic changes relates as much to the socio-economic vulnerabilities of its population as to the nature and severity of environmental challenges. As the world’s fourth most populous nation, Indonesia continues to struggle with poverty and inequality despite significant improvements in the human development index. Economic progress is uneven across its provinces and some 30 million people still live below the national poverty threshold. In terms of democratic governance, improvements have been seen since the sectarian violence of past years.

In Indonesia there is a long history of responding to economic, social, or environmental adversity through both temporary or permanent migration. Indonesia provides a significant pool of labour migrants, with about 6 million working abroad, particularly in more rapidly growing Asian economies and in the Middle East. Within the country, rural-urban movement, both temporary and permanent, is significant, with western Java a common destination. However, with Jakarta expected to face multiple impacts of climate change in the years ahead, internal migration may shift to other urban areas less at risk, including other islands in the archipelago nation.

Women at a community meeting discuss the reconstruction of their village

 

Alex Randall

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Event: Migration as climate change adaptation? Monday 14th October

When: Monday 14th October, 2pm
Where: Human Rights Action Centre, Amnesty International, London
Format: Round table discussion / workshop
Book: By email

Millions of people are already using migration as a way of improving their livelihoods. Increasingly people are using migration as a way of responding to the impacts of climate change. Can and should this existing trends be harnessed as a form of climate change adaptation? 

The event look at the following questions:

  • what might this migration look like?
  • where might it happen?
  • what are the legal and ethical implications?
  • what should civil society, governments and international agencies do?

This is a small discussion event. Participants should expect to share their experience and opinions.

Who should attend:

  • people working for development and humanitarian organisations
  • people working in climate change and environmental organisations
  • people working in civil society, charities, relevant government department and international agencies
  • academics and students working on in related fields

When:Monday 14th October
Where: Human Rights Action Centre, Amnesty International, London
Format: Round table discussion / workshop
Book: By email

14_Oct

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The Green Party and immigration. Some more connections.

Alex Randall

The Green Party in the UK recently came out in support of more open and humane immigration policy. Their stance aims to challenge the growing anti-migrant policies and rhetoric of the other main political parties. However the Green Party’s new position has been attacked by some of their own members, who argue that many party members are concerned that “a high level of net immigration” into the UK makes protecting the environment harder.

There are good reasons that green parties (in any country) should support open and humane immigration policies, beyond the need to challenge the anti migrant rhetoric of the other parties. Green parties and organisaitons must recognies that migration is one the most powerful tools we have for coping with climate change. This is a clear challenge to the greens who support tighter controls on immigration.

1. Migration can increases resilience to the impacts of climate change. Millions of people – mostly in developing countries – have their livelihoods destroyed every year by climate -linked disasters like floods and hurricanes. Many of these areas also have extensive out migration. When a disaster hits, this existing out migration has some positive consequences. When people migrate out of these areas they usually move in order to find work. Most migrants send money home to their families. This flow of money called remittances has become a fairly large part of many economies. It makes up about 10% of the Philippines’ GDP, for example. When a disaster does strike a family with migrant workers abroad will continue to receive a steady flow of remittances, when their own local livelihoods have been destroyed (at least temporarily) by the disaster. Having household members working abroad has become a very important way for some places to increase their ability to survive the immediate aftermath of climate linked disasters. In many places remittances have become informal disaster relief funds. Developed countries have a responsibility to allow this kind of movement. Green parties and organisations should support developed country governments in allowing this kind of movement as it clearly helps vulnerable developing countries cope with climate change impacts.

2. Many people are moving to find work as their livelihoods are degraded by the impacts of climate change. For many people this is the only available way of adapting to climate change. Patterns of seasonal and circular movement are increasingly becoming ways for people to maintain household income as climate change adversely affects their livelihood. For example, farmers - especially in dry-land areas – may move temporarily to find non-farm work during periods of drought. Farmers may also move to other farming areas that are less affected by adverse conditions like water stress, then return if and when conditions improve. Most of this movement is short distance and internal. However, more open immigration policies would allow this movement to become increasingly international if people needed to move further in order to find alternative work.

3. Remittances can also become an important form of climate change adaptation funding. Money sent home by migrants to their families is increasingly being invested in projects and activities that help those families adapt to climate change. This doesn’t mean the money is invested in the kind of mega-projects that we might think of as climate adaptation like building sea defenses. Rather the money is often invested adapting farming practices so that communities can continue farming in hotter or drier conditions. For example remittances have been invested in crop switching, the process of moving from growing one crop to another in response to changing environmental conditions. This usually requires some upfront capital. There are situations where finding this has been made possible the inflow of remittances. Remittances are also increasingly being used for investment in small scale water storage to increase a faming community’s ability to cope with water stress.

Political parties that are worried about the impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable people must recognise that many people are using migration as a way of surviving climate change. Their stance on immigration must reflect this.

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Myth buster. New briefing picks apart the myth and reality of migration and displacement linked to climate change

 

Download the migration and climate change myth buster

 

 

 

A number of myths have emerged about how climate change will influence the movement of people. There are connections between climate change and the movement of people. However these connections are not always obvious and the way the connections are described in the media is not always accurate. Our new myth buster looks at some of the common misunderstanding and explains what we do and don’t know about migration and climate change.

Alex Randall

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