As the second week of the 25th Climate Change Conference (COP25) is ongoing, discussions around climate change and migration are focusing around the review of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, and the role of the Task Force on Displacement.
In parallel to the official negotiations, the second week also represents an opportunity to build upon the outcomes of the Secretary General New York Climate Action Summit (September 2019), where States made commitments on adaptation and mitigation that could be instrumental to address climate drivers of migration, especially in Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
In that respect, one important event at COP25 is the official Launch of Fiji’s Displacement Guidelines, by His Excellency Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyu, Attorney-General and Minister for Economy, Civil Service and Communications, and Minister responsible for Climate Change. Dina Ionesco, Head of the IOM Division on Migration, Environment and Climate Change, was part of the panel discussion of the event. Her intervention built upon the recent Ministerial Meeting organized by the Permanent Missions of Fiji, Portugal and IOM on 26 September 2019 in New York, in the margins of the Climate Action Summit. The event brought together over 20 countries and Ministers and high level participants from Fiji, Portugal, Micronesia, Tuvalu, Curaçao, Cabo Verde, Comores, Seychelles, Ireland, New Zealand, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Samoa as well as UN-OHRLLS, UN-ESCAP, UNTFHS and UN Resident Coordinators. Having ministers gathered during the Summit in New York to highlight the challenges and opportunities for SIDS in terms of climate change and migration offered a strong political impetus for the ongoing climate conference.
Though the commitments made at the Climate Action Summit do not specifically aim to address the migration dimensions of climate change, the migration agenda can be advanced by building on progress made in activities that will deal with adaptation, clean energy, SIDS or resilience building. Moreover migration was prominent in many events organized, for instance with the Sabin Centre for climate change law of the Columbia Law School, the IKEA Foundation, Act Alliance, Bread for the World, Truman Think Tank, Earth Institute, Ford Foundation, Platform on Disaster Displacement (PDD), the World Bank or UNDP.
For IOM, supporting SIDS’s action on climate migration and the implementation of the commitments made at the New York Climate Action Summit takes several forms: developing evidence for policy, analysing and extracting knowledge from IOM’s activities in the regions to identify and replicate good practices, supporting the states to convene collaborative dialogues and initiatives with all relevant stakeholders, including the United Nations system, civil society and the private sector, and implementing climate migration programmes at the national level. These activities are in line with the ambitions of the second phase of the Task Force on Displacement, which aims to bolster support to regional and national action.
One relevant example of action at national and regional level is a project seeking to enhance the protection of migrants and communities affected by climate change and disasters in the Pacific region. This ground-breaking project is implemented by IOM, ILO, OHCHR, UN-ESCAP, PIFS and PDD with the support of the UN Trust Fund for Human Security.
COP25 discussions are also building on the 14th Conference of the Parties (COP14) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which took place in New Delhi from 2 to 13 September 2019. IOM contributed to the migration-related discussions throughout the negotiations.
Ahead of the conference, UNCDD and IOM jointly looked at the links between migration and land degradation and published "Addressing the Land Degradation – Migration Nexus: The Role of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification." The publication presents a comprehensive overview of the migration and land degradation nexus and outlines several policy recommendations to reduce adverse land-related drivers of migration and seize opportunities for enhanced collaboration. IOM presented the publication to all regional groups of negotiators as well as in several public events during COP14.
This work contributed to parties to the UNCCD adopting at COP14 a migration-centered decision on the positive role that measures taken under the Convention can play to address desertification/land degradation and drought drivers of migration (Decision 19/COP.14) following on Decision 28/COP.13. The resolution acknowledges the joint IOM-UNCCD publication and encourages parties to take action to address land drivers of migration in different ways, including by “Promoting the restoration of degraded land as one way of changing the narrative in communities impacted by desertification/land degradation and drought.”
It is now evident that climate change, environment and migration issues are at the core of public policy discussions. COP25 represents an important opportunity to advance these discussions, but also to think about the next steps in terms of action and implementation, in support of both vulnerable states and individuals.
Dina Ionesco is the Head of the Migration, Environment and Climate Change (MECC) Division at the UN Migration Agency (IOM). In this capacity, she oversees IOM’s policies and programmes related to the nexus between migration, environment and climate change, and coordinates IOM’s contributions to policy processes, such as the climate change negotiations.
Mariam Traore Chazalnoël is a specialist in environmental and climate migration at the International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s Office to the United Nations in New York. She has been working since 2013 on the global governance of environmental migration and regularly publishes on the topic.