Climate-induced migration must be at the core of the Paris deal

Leaving Tacloban

PARIS, France – Migration highlights the human aspect of climate change. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) they are firming up the recognition of human migration as a consequence of climate change and to provide mechanisms at the Paris climate agreement.


Large-scale human mobility or migration will be one of the future megatrends with the on-going rate of human-induced climate change, IOM Secretary General William Lacy Swing said on Thursday at a side event of the conference here.


“Our migration policies have not kept up the way we have adopted with the speedy virtual world. We have mechanisms for the free flow of services but not the free flow of people,” Swing explained.


“Migration is a human reality that needs to be managed,” Swing said. There are millions of people who are most affected by lack of water resources, lack of arable land, floods, drought, and catastrophic typhoon like the Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013.


On the other hand, Volker Turk, UNCHR Assistant High Commissioners for Refugees, UN Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said most refugees nowadays come from climate ‘hotspots’ and those affected by extreme weather events.


“There is a disconnect in the current governance structures and the realities we face so there is a need to address this urgently and this is an important message we need from COP21 (21st Conference of Parties),” Turk said.


According to the latest UN data, every second, one person is displaced by a human-induced weather-related disaster, which is about twice the number of people displaced by war and conflict.


In 2014, about 19.4 million people were displaced by disasters and millions more will be homeless if leaders fail to act on the Paris climate deal, said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council.


As of Thursday, the Paris draft includes migration under Article 5 on Loss and Damage with an adaptation provision of a climate change displacement coordination facility that “shall be established under the [Warsaw International Mechanism] [CMA] to coordinate efforts to address climate change induced displacement, migration and planned relocation.”


The loss and damage provision, according to Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and who has been following the previous COP meetings, “only appeared two years ago as central part of the negotiations.”


“I think might be too early to know the specific type of mechanism that may be linked to insurance schemes to ensure the poorest people when hurt by climate events get something back,” Barbut said.


When super typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in 2013, the world saw four million people displaced—more than the combined number of displaced persons from typhoon Katrina in the US and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.


Here is what Dina Ionesco, head of the division of migration, environment and climate change at IOM has to say about the lessons learned from typhoon Haiyan:



Two years after the tragedy, thousands of Filipinos in central Philippines still remain homeless, with most leaving in poor-ventilated temporary shelters that heat up at unbearable temperatures oven during midday in the tropical nation.


“I am not suggesting a borderless world but ultimately, we need to manage human migration,” Swing said.



Alfredo Zamudio, director of the Norwegian Refugee Council assessed how the Philippines has been doing in terms of the rehabilitation of displaced individuals.


There are two steps to manage the global migration problem, Swing said. “First, we need to change the toxic migration narrative to one that is more accurate, and tell that migration and mobility can be positive.”


“Secondly, and more difficult than the first step is we ned to learn to manage growing multi-cultural and multi-ethnic diversity in our societies and realize that there is climate change that will cause people to move around,” Swing said.


reporting by Anna Valmero; editing by Imelda Abano

photo and video: Anna Valmero

Anna Valmero
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Anna Valmero

Social Media and Citizen Journalism at Philippine EnviroNews
Anna Valmero
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