Migration in INDCs/NDCs

Children walk on the edge of the sinking atoll of the Carteret Islands, Papua New Guinea, where  the International Organization for Migration (IOM) helps people tackle the adverse effects of climate change on migration as part of the organization greater commitment to global action. © IOM, 2016 / Mohammed Muse


What are INDCs and NDCs?

Prior to the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) formed the basis of states’ engagement to support the legally binding international climate agreement, reflecting their national commitments to achieve the global climate objectives on tackling climate change and reducing CO2 emissions. Under the COP21 Paris Agreement[1] adopted in December 2015, submitted INDCs automatically become Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) upon ratification of the Agreement - unless the State decides to submit a new NDC at the time of ratification. By decision 1/CP.21, paragraph 13, Parties who have not yet submitted their INDCs are requested to communicate them as soon as possible prior to COP 22[2]

As of 15 July 2016, 162 countries have submitted their INDCs, with a technical focus on how to reduce CO2 emissions and reach mitigation targets. Adaptation is often considered as mainly the concern of developing countries - evidenced by the abundance of references to adaptation measures in their submissions. However, it is important for all countries to consider that insufficient mitigation efforts now will most likely mean a need for more adaptation measures in the future. Both mitigation and adaption efforts have immediate and future impacts on the migration patterns of people.  

Why are INDCs and NDCs important to the migration and climate nexus?

Setting mitigation targets as outlined in the INDCs/NDCs is necessary to reduce negative climate impacts as much as possible.  But whether mitigation targets are achieved or not in the future, we know that unprecedented number of people are already on the move following weather-related natural disasters[3] and slow degradation of areas that are becoming inhospitable to human beings. It is also likely that the number of people migrating in connection to climate impacts will rise in the future[4].  At the same time, adaptation measures are already implemented throughout the world and it is expected that more adaptation efforts will be needed in both developed and developing countries in the future.

In terms of climate migration, this calls for understanding i.) what the current and expected climate impacts are on the migration of people; and ii.) how to best use the policy tools and the resources available to turn migration into a possible adaptation strategy whenever possible.

Where is migration in INDCs and NDCs?

Out of the 162 INDCS submissions[5] to the UNFCCC before COP21, 33 submissions refers to migration in one of its different forms. This means that 20% of the current submissions refer to migration. Among these countries, 46% are located on the African continent, 33% in Asia-Pacific and Oceania and 21% in Latin America. Unsurprisingly, these continents are the most affected by climate change[6], which might explain their interest in linking climate impacts to migration issues. 

The references to  migration mostly focus on three dimensions, which reflect the overall debate on climate migration:  i) managing the effects of climate change on security and the need to tackle and prevent adverse mobility effects such as the displacement of people due to natural disasters and/or migratory movements linked to climate change as a push factor; ii) using migration as a possible adaptation strategy to climatic changes through policy measures such as resettlement and relocation; and iii) leveraging remittances and financial transfers from migrants and diasporas to contribute to climate action.

Six months after the adoption of the Paris Agreement, six of the INDCs became NDCs following states’ ratification of the Agreement. As INDCs and NDCs reflect states’ commitments to combat the negative effects of climate change, it is encouraging to note that one fifth of the states, Parties to the UNFCCC, have made reference to human mobility in their national submissions, and that many of these states have firmed up their commitments following the adoption of the Paris Agreement.

Please see all references to human mobility in the INDCs here

How to consider migration in the implementation phase of the Paris Agreement?

In addition to the INDCs/NDCs dimension, it is important to note that the Paris Agreement has formally included references to migration and displacement[7], notably through a reference to the rights of migrants in the Preamble and the adoption of COP Decision 1/CP.21, paragraph 49 to create a dedicated Task force under the Executive Committee of the  Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM) to develop recommendations on “integrated approaches to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change.”

Over the next decades, the implementation phase of the national commitments expressed in the INDCs and NDCs will be rolled out. The migration dimension will continue to be of increasing relevance to most countries – especially for those who are already aware of the adverse impacts of climate change on the mobility of people as well as for those who are eager to seize the opportunities associated with migration in a changing climate. 

In the implementation phase, it is critical that States have access to technical support and expertise in order to tackle issues and opportunities associated with climate migration, especially considering the complexity of the issues at stake. In that respect, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has, over the past decade and at the request of its Member States, intensified its efforts[8] to support States to understand and take action on climate migration. In its comprehensive Atlas of Environmental Migration, IOM has mapped existing national adaptation plans and policies referring to migration and human mobility.  The Organization has also developed guidelines on mainstreaming migration into National Adaptation Plans[9]. ‎IOM now actively supports the WIM and the creation of the Taskforce on Displacement through sharing of technical expertise[10].

For more information, please visit the Environmental Migration Portal


This document was prepared by Mariam Traore Chazalnoël (Associate Expert, IOM Migration, Environment and Climate Change Division) and Eva Mach (Project Officer, IOM Migration, Environment and Climate Change Division) in coordination with Dina Ionesco (Head, IOM Migration, Environment and Climate Change Division).

[5] The 162 submissions represent 190 countries (161 national submissions plus 1 common submission for the 28 European Member States), 

[8] Ongoing IOM activities include researchcapacity building and policy support as well as operational responses to address climate migration

[10] IOM has organized in July 2016 a Technical Meeting on migration, displacement and human mobility in the Kingdom of Morocco, host to COP22, that brought together members of the Excom of the WIM with the wider community of migration and displacement experts, in order to support action on climate migration https://environmentalmigration.iom.int/technical-meeting