Migration, Climate Change and 2030 Agenda (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
The interaction between migration and the environment has been omnipresent since the beginning of human history. On the one hand, environmental impacts have long been a factor in driving migration, as people naturally move out of harm’s way and towards favorable conditions seeking greener pastures. On the other hand, the influence of migration on the environment has been a universal phenomenon with agriculture, industrialization, and urbanization shaping our natural surroundings.
In a world with more than 244 million international migrants and at least 763 million internal migrants,2 1 billion people on the move become not only an international or national governance concern but also a powerful engine of development.3 In order to promote truly sustainable development, we must take into account this multidimensional megatrend of our century when designing and financing development. At the same time, we must consider the multifaceted risks and opportunities environmental and climate change might bring.
This paper aims to discuss the complex interlinkages between migration and environment/climate change from a bidirectional perspective, as well as explore ways the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their specified targets can help to address the multiple challenges of the migration- environment nexus and turn them into opportunities.
The first section explores the first dimension of the migration, environment, and climate change (MECC) nexus by looking at how environmental and climate changes restructure migration patterns and how responding to MECC challenges can support the implementation of the SDGs.
The second section looks at the other dimension of MECC, namely how we can manage migration and capitalize on “green migration governance” to mitigate impacts on the environment and climate and boost green development.
The paper also outlines the key challenges in connection with MECC that might hinder sustainable development and identify how MECC issues can contribute positively to sustainable development.
Environment and migration in the SDGs
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted in 2015, setting 17 development goals and 169 associated targets in order to build a global development framework for transformational change: to ensure well-being for all and to protect the planet. The SDGs represent the framework for development for the next 13 years to come and recognize the
the integral role of migration in contributing to sustainable development and make numerous references to its governance, management, and practice:
“We recognize the positive contribution of migrants for inclusive growth and sustainable development. We also recognize that international migration is a multi-dimensional reality of major relevance for the development of countries of origin, transit and destination, which requires coherent and comprehensive responses. We will cooperate internationally to ensure safe, orderly and regular migration involving full respect for human rights and the humane treatment of migrants regardless of migration status, of refugees and of displaced persons. Such cooperation should also strengthen the resilience of communities hosting refugees, particularly in developing countries. We underline the right of migrants to return to their country of citizenship, and recall that States must ensure that their returning nationals are duly received”.
Although governments must play the leading role in driving sustainable development, acknowledging and harnessing the power of migration is critical. Under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, migration is seen as a way to reduce inequality within and among countries and was embedded in SDG 10 with target 10.7, calling to “facilitate orderly, safe, and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies”.
While the most evident reference to migration is found in target 10.7, the cross-cutting migration, environment, and climate change issue is to be addressed under several other SDGs.
Environmental considerations are central to the realization of the 2030 Agenda; they are cross-cutting and integrated into all 17 goals. The SDGs recognize the interconnectedness of economic, social, and environmental development to be at the heart of sustainable development. The Goals indicate and call for a drastic acceleration of environmental sustainability and climate change mainstreaming into all areas of life, including migration policies and programs.
In 2016, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) devoted its International Dialogue on Migration to a full review of migration in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to migration-related targets under the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.5 The two workshops dedicated to migration and SDGs emphasized the cross-cutting nature of migration and its many interlinkages with development, environment, climate change, and disaster risk reduction (DRR). They highlighted that migration cannot be considered in isolation from development policies and climate change actions:
(…) the SDGs reinforce other important international frameworks developed in recent years, such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, the SAMOA Pathway and the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The global compact on migration should bring many of those strands together in a guiding document for the governance of international migration.