Climate change and migration in developing countries: evidence and implications for PRISE countries

Maria Waldinger, Sam Fankhauser

ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment


Empirical evidence from developing countries demonstrates that people, especially farmers, are likely to migrate internally as a response to climate change and that the impacts of climate change on migration depends on socio-economic, political and institutional capacity. In other words, peoples’ vulnerability depends on their ability to adapt to changes and will consequently influence their decision to migrate or not.

The authors argue that unplanned and uncoordinated migration efforts are a sign of adaptation failure and can lead to social, economic and psychological costs if migrants go to areas with e.g. low labour productivity. To tackle badly managed migration and reduce the negative impacts it is relevant to implement policy interventions in both the receiving and sending regions. This paper especially highlights certain policy conditions that are necessary in order for migration to have positive social and economic effects in so-called PRISE (Pathways to Resilience in Semi-Arid Economies) countries. For instance, effective policy interventions should include a clear definition of the status of ‘environmental migrants’ to assure people about their legal rights; raise awareness about potential social and economic costs but also benefits of migration; release cash credit to offset the upfront costs incurred by migrants e.g transportation costs. Another important point is to provide support and strengthen the capacity of the receiving region’s jurisdiction in order to manage the costs of new arrivals.

Understanding the economic and social aspects of migration for developing countries is relevant in order to design policies that help, not hinder. If the right preconditions exist migration can serve as a positive and effective response measure to climate risks.


Image credit: DFID-UK department for international development (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) From

Chanelle Andrén is a volunteer at UK Climate Change and Migration Coalition and writes the round up of new research on climate change, migration and displacement. Her background is in International Human Rights Law with specialisation in ‘Just Transitions’.

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