Human Mobility in the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change
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."
Key Messages on Migration and Climate Change
Climate change is a cause of human
Human mobility is an adaptation
strategy to climate change
Climate change policy should
consider human mobility
Environmental and climatic factors are
both drivers and pull factors of migration,
and are influenced by economic, social,
political and demographic aspects. All
these different dimensions together
define a community and an individual’s
resilience and vulnerability.
Mobility strategies of migrants are not
inherently “positive” or “negative”.
Mobility can save lives, enhance
resilience and reduce risk – and it can
also make people vulnerable and
expose them to new risks.
Talking of migration in the context of
climate change means giving a human
face to the climate change debate.
More emphasis needs to be placed on
the migrants themselves, their families
and the communities, on understanding
their strategies, the challenges they face,
and mobility options that are available to
Individuals and communities use
migration to adapt to changing
environmental conditions. In
some contexts, migration can
constitute an important and
positive adaptation strategy that
can be supported by policy action.
Human mobility matters should be
factored in the National Adaptation
Plans and in adaptation strategies.
The contributions of migrants and
diasporas for instance through
remittances, knowledge transfers
and investments can serve adaptation
purposes. The role of migration as an
adaptation strategy to climate change
can be facilitated.
UNFCCC process should continue to
include human mobility questions in its
negotiations. Following major advances
in Cancun in 2010 (decision 1.CP/16
paragraph 14 (f)) and in Doha in 2012
(decision on loss and damage 3.CP/18
paragraph 7 (a) (vi)), negotiations under
the UNFCCC should continue to factor in
and progress on the question of human
mobility in relation to climate change.
Policymakers need to be empowered at
the national, local, or regional and
international levels to be able to address
the complex nexus of migration, environment
and climate. Climate and migration require
common policy responses.