Human Mobility in the UNFCCC
As the leading intergovernmental migration agency, The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been at the forefront of operational, research, policy and advocacy efforts seeking to bring environmental migration to the heart of national, regional, and international concerns. Working in close collaboration with its Member States, observers and partners, IOM’s work on Migration, Environment and Climate Change (MECC) has greatly expanded in the past five years. To deepen IOM’s engagement with this thematic area, the “Migration, Environment and Climate Change Division” (MECC) was created within the organization. The MECC Division is a dedicated institutional structure tasked with leading IOM’s work on migration, environment and climate change. For more information, please see IOM and Migration, Environment and Climate Change and IOM Publications.
The United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) first recognized the growing importance of human mobility with the adaptation of the 2010 Cancun Adaptation Framework. When the 2015 Paris Agreement was adopted during the twenty-first Conference of Parties in Paris (COP21), climate migrants were finally rendered visible within the wider international policy arena. IOM has been actively engaged in the UNFCCC process since COP14 in Poznan in 2008, advocating for the recognition of migration and displacement dimensions in policy discussions on climate change. Over the years, IOM has made over forty official submissions to the UNFCCC and has organized and contributed to side events and press conferences at each Conference of the Parties. IOM also provides technical advice to negotiators, COP presidencies, and the Secretariat of the UNFCCC. Collaboration with other intergovernmental and civil society stakeholders has been key for IOM throughout these efforts.
In 2016, IOM organized the first technical meeting with the UNFCCC Executive Committee (ExCom) of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) in Casablanca, Morocco. The meeting’s focus was loss and damage pertaining to migration, displacement and human mobility in the context of climate change. In 2017, IOM joined the Task Force on Displacement established under the WIM ExCom. Within this capacity, IOM is leading several Task Force activities relating to policy, praxis, and research. In May 2018, together with PDD and on behalf of the WIM ExCom, IOM organized the Task Force on Displacement Stakeholder Meeting, “Recommendations for integrated approaches to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change.” For more information on IOM’s engagement with UNFCCC, please see "UNFCCC Submissions."
The IOM International Migration Law Glossary on Migration defines climate migration as:
The movement of a person or groups of persons who, predominantly for reasons of sudden or progressive change in the environment due to climate change, are obliged to leave their habitual place of residence, or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, within a State or across an international border.
Source: Warsaw International Mechanism, Executive Committee, Action Area 6: Migration, Displacement and Human Mobility - Submission from the International Organization for Migration (IOM, 2016); M. Traore Chazalnoël and D. Ionesco, Defining Climate Migrants – Beyond Semantics (IOM weblog, 6 June 2016) (last accessed 23 May 2018).
Note: This is a working definition of the International Organization for Migration with an analytic and advocacy purpose which does not have any specific legal value. Climate migration is a subcategory of environmental migration; it defines a singular type of environmental migration, where the change in the environment is due to climate change. Migration in this context can be associated with greater vulnerability of affected people, particularly if it is forced. Yet, migration can also be a form of adaptation to environmental stressors, helping to build resilience of affected individuals and communities.
Key Messages on Migration and Climate Change
Climate change is a cause of human mobility
|Human mobility is an adaptation strategy to climate change||Climate change policy should consider human mobility|
Relevant IOM Publications
Joint Publications with IOM Partners
|Human Mobility in the Context of Climate Change: Elements for the UNFCCC Paris Agreement||Integrating Human Mobility Issues Within National Adaptation Plans|
Climate Migration in the News