The impacts of climate change are increasingly recognized as important drivers of migration and displacement: "Human migration, forced or otherwise, will undoubtedly be one of the most significant consequences of environmental degradation and climate change in decades to come", stated Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The economic, social and environmental consequences of climate change aggravate the breakdown of eco-system-dependent livelihoods and are likely to become dominant drivers of long-term migration. Natural disasters already cause massive shorter-term displacement and the number of temporarily displaced people is likely to further increase with climate change. For vulnerable populations in vulnerable regions, such as the Sahel zone or the Ganges delta, migration often becomes the sole survival strategy.
Although attention towards the problem is increasing, several aspects remain unclear: the methods used for assessing direct climate change effects on migration, the legal status of environmental refugees and the exact number of future climate-related displaced people. A report by the humanitarian organization CARE states that its "scale and scope could vastly exceed anything that has occurred before. People in the least developed countries and island states will be affected first and worst. The consequences for almost all aspects of development and human security could be devastating." Accordingly, a growing number of research projects and organizations, such as the International Organization for Migration, UNEP or the International Committee of the Red Cross, address the issue and seek to close the knowledge gaps.
Countries like Afghanistan and Sudan are currently experiencing a rise in extreme droughts or floods that threaten livelihoods and put enormous additional pressure on the poor populations. Implementing adaptation measures and assisting vulnerable populations in building climate resilient livelihoods may prevent some migration. However, such poor countries often lack the capacities and institutions to support effective adaptation.
In order to address climate-related displacement and migration successfully, knowledge of effective adaptation and improved understanding of how environmental change affects human mobility is essential. To this end, this ECC section attempts to provide comprehensive information on the issue, including relevant initiatives, and publications. ECC thereby contributes to a better understanding and awareness of the dynamics around climate and migration and of possible ways for action.