This article is written by Lisa Murken and is part of the Youth on the Move project.
An important topic receiving more and more attention is the issue of climate-induced displacement, more commonly referred to as climate migration. Many organisations work on this topic, including CliMates!
At the last official day of COP22, we will present our project “Youth on the Move”, and hope for a fruitful discussion with many participants. But we are not the only ones lancing the conversation on this issue. A number of side-events at COP22 have already dealt withclimate migration, hosted amongst others by the IOM and UNICEF.
What about the role that climate migration plays in the official UN negotiations on climate change? Where is it discussed and has there already been any progress?
In September this year at the UN General Assembly, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was adopted, which clearly recognizes the role of environmental degradation, climate change and disasters as drivers for displacement. It also talks about the other side of the coin – the environmental impacts of migration. The adoption of this declaration with its elements on climate migration is a huge success, which shows how awareness around this socio-economic consequence of climate change is increasing.
With the Paris Agreement, climate migration has also been officially given a place in the UNFCCC process for the first time. Before there had only been informal discussions and mentions in two decisions at the conferences in Cancun and in Doha, but no institutionalised work had been conducted. The Paris Agreement now mentions climate migrants at three different parts: The first is the preamble, where the parties are asked to consider their respective obligations towards migrants when taking climate action. There are also many references to the protection of people, the resilience of communities and the importance of livelihoods, all issues that are closely linked to environmental migration. The final and most important mention is the request to establish a task force on displacement in Article 50. The Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage, which was established at COP19 in 2013, set up this working group. Its task is to “develop recommendations for integrated approaches to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change.” So climate-related displacement has been officially given a place under the broader issue of Loss and Damage.
In addition to that, about 20 % of the submitted INDCs contain a reference to climate migration. While this is already an encouraging sign, it should of course be improved.Remaining countries should follow the lead and update their NDCs accordingly to include climate migration. This is also one of UNHCR’s central requests for COP22 to deliver.
A first technical meeting of the Loss and Damage working group on migration, displacement and human mobility was held in Casablanca in July 2016. More than 30 experts and organisations contributed to scientific information, which was then synthesised at the meeting in order to highlight key lessons learned and good practices. The executive committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism plans to make this information available in the future, but it only wants to do that “if appropriate”. This is certainly a quite unclear formulation, leaving doubts about how productive the working group has actually been or whether it wishes to work truly transparently. The key aim of setting up the working group in the Paris Agreement had been to publish recommendations – in itself already a weak action – but so far this has not been achieved. At COP22, the negotiations on the Loss and Damage mechanism closed with an encouragement for countries, as well as for other organisations, to consider displacement and migration induced by climate change.
Therefore, since apparently not much came out of the discussions on climate-related displacement at COP22, it can only be hoped that the issue will be higher up on the agenda at the next conference. This is also when the two-year work plan of the Warsaw Mechanisms expires, so at least recommendations on climate migration should be given by then. Of course it is already a big success to have climate migration on the UNFCCC agenda at all given the sensitivity of the subject. But as this is a really urgent issue and people are already being displaced as a consequence of climate change effects, much more has to be done!
To ensure that this really happens, more pressure must be put on governments and negotiators, so that they know how important this issue is. Within the youth constituency of UNFCCC (YOUNGO), many people are interested in the topic. They want to put forward demands by youth for the support of climate migrants. They want world leaders to work to increase resilience of populations, so that people will not be forced to migrate in the first place.
In the meantime, if you are in Marrakech right now, come to our side-event on Youth and Climate Migration on Friday, at 1 pm in the Green Zone. And if you are not in Marrakech, check out our page including the latest teaser on our project!
About the author: Lisa Murken is a Master student in Environment and Development at LSE. She is active in CliMates’ « Youth on the Move » project and very passionate about issues of climate vulnerability and climate justice.