Migration, changement climatique et Agenda 2030 (I)
Implementation of the Migration and Climate Change Related Commitments of the Agenda 2030
Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment
Environmental migration in the SDGs
Today, twice as many people are displaced by weather-related natural disasters than by conflict and violence. Various data suggest that migration ‒ both internal and cross-border ‒ is
expected to escalate given the impacts of climate change on livelihoods. Moving might be, for many, the only practicable adaptation strategy in light of the unprecedented impacts on the lives and livelihoods of those relying on natural resources, including both land and water.
The topic of environmental migration has gained significant attention in the past years due to its inclusion in the environmental debates, above all in the climate change discussions concerning climate justice and loss and damage. The First Assessment Report (1990 AR1) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was key in bringing visibility to the mobility dimension of the climate change debate.8 While acknowledging the complexity of migration decisions, the most recent Fifth Assessment report (2015 AR5) further highlighted the impacts of climate change ‒ especially of varying climate extremes ‒ on diverse human mobility trends and underlined the link between the impacts of climate change on lives and livelihoods and migration.9 The 2015 Paris Agreement10 was a watershed for the topic as it officially acknowledged migration as one of the consequences of and responses to climate change.11
Further, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants,12 adopted in 2016, is the first major international migration text to acknowledge the importance of the MECC nexus. The Declaration refers to both dimensions of MECC: (a) migration due to environmental and/or climate change; and (b) environmental change due to migration. The Declaration is a key step forward toward migration policy starting to incorporate climate and environmental challenges.13
Environmental factors reshape human mobility across different times, spaces,s and diverse scales. Rapid-onset events trigger migration as a life-saving mechanism and usually result in sudden internal and temporary displacement with studies increasingly pointing out the risk of protracted displacement. Slow-onset events as a result of progressive environmental degradation and climate change may result in longer-term, permanent, and regional environmental and climate migration.
Migration, on the one hand, acts as an indicator of exposure in areas prone to environmental change, which can be understood by looking at the relative percentage of outmigration from affected areas and in-migration to affected areas (mainly in the urban setting). On the other hand, migration can be an indicator of resilience, as it could potentially increase access to livelihood opportunities for households at risk and increase the diversity of resources at hand (including diaspora remittances). Migration as an indicator of resilience can also be demonstrated through the increase in the number of spontaneous, sustainable return of migrants, vis-à-vis the number of displaced by natural disasters,15 as that would indicate that the community has sufficiently developed its capacity to adapt to natural disasters (with sustainable livelihood options available for local populations).
In the context of global environmental changes, it is crucial to consider the challenges and opportunities migration may pose to achieve sustainable development.
The SDGs provide several entry points for governments to address environmental migration through the following:
(a) Ending poverty by building the resilience of vulnerable populations to extreme events under Goal 1;
(b) Achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture and strengthening capacity for adaptation to environmental changes under Goal 2;
(c) Reducing the number of people suffering from water scarcity under Goal 6;
(d) Promoting the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies under Goal 10;
(e) Reducing the number of deaths and people affected by disasters through effective DRR practices and strengthening development planning for resilient cities and settlements under Goal 11; and
(f) Building adaptive capacity in the face of climate change and integrating climate change measures in policies under Goal
Migration management services respond directly to these goals with the following objectives:
- minimizing forced and unmanaged migration due to environmental and climate change as much as possible; (b) ensuring assistance and protection for those affected and seeking durable solutions where forced migration does occur; and (c) facilitating the role of migration as an adaptation strategy to climate change.16
The first two objectives of environmental migration management resonate throughout several targets, as they intend to provide assistance for people facing environmental change and facilitate in-situ adaptation. Thus, incorporating migration in DRR, land management, urban design, climate change, and other natural resources governance is key to enabling governments to reach SDG targets and advance on the path toward sustainability.
Furthermore, migration represents an adaptation response and DRR measure to environmental and climate change impacts. It can be a coping mechanism and survival strategy for those who move and also for those who stay behind. Migration can also lift pressures from the environment and from local resources, especially where resource depletion is a problem. Facilitating well-managed migration schemes, which build resilience and help people to adapt to the changing environment, can therefore contribute directly to sustainable development.17
In line with the SDGs, migration can play a significant role in the sustainable management of natural resources through the following:
- (a) Improving the understanding of the risks related to marine, coastal and terrestrial ecosystem degradation, natural resource depletion, and their impacts on local communities and human mobility;
- (b) Identifying vulnerable communities living in areas of climate hotspots where natural resources are at risk, leading to outmigration, including areas under water stress or prone to desertification;
- (c) Informing and raising the awareness of policymakers and communities in order to support inclusive policy development in the cross-cutting field of MECC; and
- (d) Developing projects and programs at the international, regional, and national levels aimed at improving sustainable marine, coastal, and land ecosystem management, protection, and rehabilitation financed by migrant resources (both financial and human, internal and diaspora remittances).
2.2. “Greening” migration governance
The purpose of this section is to show how the SDG framework can provide a compass and be a catalyst for “greening migration governance” by ensuring that environmental considerations and climate change are mainstreamed into operations. Operationalizing and applying environmental governance ‒ which includes internationally agreed multilateral conventions
aiming to protect the natural environment such as the Rio Conventions ‒ to policies and programs focused on migration management, can contribute significantly to the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.
Migration management can support the implementation of the SDGs in two ways. First, it can be an effective DRR, resilience-building, and adaptation strategy. Second, it has the potential to contribute to mitigation efforts throughout the whole migration cycle. Transition to a low-carbon, sustainable development requires that migration operational frameworks be closely coordinated with environment-related SDG targets during all migratory phases (before, during, and after migration occurs).
Conclusion and recommendations
Migration currently remains poorly integrated into the broader development framework. The SDGs can respond to this challenge thanks to the particular construction of the SDG framework, where multiple goals and targets contribute to one overarching purpose.
IOM’s Migration, Environment, and Climate Change approach bring together the two MECC dimensions. It calls, on the one hand, for the design of migration solutions to save lives and secure sustainable livelihoods; on the other, for the creation of incentives to channel migrant and diaspora investments into sustainable natural resource management practices and green initiatives.
Governments have the responsibility and equally the power to address the challenges and harness the opportunities of the migration, environment, and climate change nexus in the context of the SDG framework, while actively seeking out partnerships with the private sector and civil society.
Specific recommendations when designing policies on MECC and SDGs include the following:
(a) Acknowledge that the sustainable development path is challenged by current global and local environmental and climate changes and their impacts, which need to be factored in when designing migration governance frameworks, migration management programs and
(b) Recognize the contributions of migrants and the importance of migration to sustainable development as migration can reduce vulnerability to environmental hazards and lessen the impact of crises on development through well-designed migration schemes, remittances and
(c) Explore and support the potential of migration for development with a focus on building resilience and supporting adaptation and
(d) Include policy provisions for the most vulnerable trapped populations who are unable to make use of migration as a coping or adaptation strategy, in line with the commitment to “leave no one behind”.
(e) Factor environmental (including climate) migration in national development planning and incorporate proactive response measures
(f) Ensure that migration management and governance can contribute to the implementation of the environment-related SDG goals and design projects with positive environmental and mitigation
The future of migration governance will depend on how existing cross-cutting intergovernmental agreements ‒ such as the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change, 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the 2015 Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction ‒ will be operationalized in a truly sustainable and coordinated manner. The impact of the SDGs will depend on how successfully they are mainstreamed across different policy areas and the extent to which these efforts are coordinated. Goal 17 on global partnerships will play a key role in building bridges and harmonizing international and national plans for sustainable development beyond 2030.
The International Organization for Migration – UN Migration Agency supports that well-managed, proactive migration governance benefits all and it can contribute significantly to mitigation and adaptation efforts. Contingent upon timely and well-designed migration policy responses, migration can have positive effects through lifting pressures from local environmental coping capacities by deploying it as an adaptation strategy, as well as through greening migration governance and related activities to support mitigation measures.