Putting the Spotlight on the Climate-Migration-Nexus

Climate-related displacement

People have migrated in response to changing environmental conditions throughout human history. However, with human mobility (encompassing among others migration, displacement, and relocation) now a growing focus of research, there is increasing recognition that climate change, natural disasters and environmental degradation are important factors in migrants’ decisions and forced realities to leave their homes.

With human activity causing significant changes to the climate and the natural world in recent decades, millions of people are being displaced and relocated from as well as deciding to leave their homelands every year as a result of climate-related natural disasters – with the numbers greatly exceeding those of people displaced as a result of conflicts and wars.

While the public and the media tend to concentrate on how extreme weather events, such as floods or landslides, trigger human mobility within a country and across borders, long-term, slow-onset environmental degradation and climate change are also likely to lead to significant migratory movements. Generally, consensus exists that climate change can induce human mobility, though what is still being figured out is the interplay between social, economic, political, legal, and cultural factors that feed into human mobility outcomes and what kinds of coordination, both politically and financially can help improve these outcomes.

adelphi has been working and researching on this topic nexus for many years. To learn more about the climate-migration-nexus, you can find an overview of selected projects and publications below.

Five selected projects

Environmental degradation, climate change, and migration: a global challenge

Migration and displacement in the context of climate change, natural disasters, and environmental degradation are the topic of a growing, interdisciplinary and increasingly complex body of literature. Commissioned by the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA), adelphi partnered with the International Organization of Migration (IOM) to improve the understanding of the multi-layered nature of these links and implications for policy making. adelphi’s work focused on targeted recommendations for German policy makers as well as on the organization of an international expert conference, with a regional focus on the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Philippines.

Habitable - The interplay of climate change, habitability and social tipping points: Scenarios for Climate Migration

The impacts of climate change have been identified as crucial drivers of migration and displacement. However, data and knowledge on the interactions between migration drivers remain limited. In order to address these knowledge gaps, the HABITABLE project will investigate how and to what extent climate change affects the habitability of socio-ecological systems and transforms current and future migration patterns. adelphi’s work within HABITABLE focuses on developing climate-migration scenario narratives for the year 2050, which will be used to identify scenario-specific opportunities for political action and suggest climate adaptation and migration policies to tackle the possible challenges associated with different scenarios.

Delegation Conference on Migration and Climate Change

The impact of climate change on human mobility will increase significantly in the coming years, posing particular challenges for developing countries that are especially vulnerable to climate change. To improve the management of these challenges, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) commissioned the German development agency GIZ to implement the project “Human Mobility in the Context of Climate Change”. In June 2019, the project invited partners from all three pilot regions - the Philippines, the Pacific and the Caribbean - to a three-day delegation conference. adelphi designed and moderated the event, which provided a unique opportunity for strengthening working relationships, knowledge sharing, and networking.

Foreign policy responses to climate change: addressing risks, seizing opportunities

Both the implementation of the Paris Agreement as well as the minimization of systemic risks to prosperity, stability, and security remain central tasks of foreign climate policy. In cooperation with the German Federal Foreign Office, adelphi developed innovative approaches and new ideas for this policy field. Through studies and policy papers, adelphi analysed and discussed the geopolitical importance of global trends, including urbanisation and migration, and drafted proposals for foreign policy action.

Analysis of programme and project activities in the field of international climate adaptation with regard to addressing conflict sensitivity and human mobility and migration*

This project centers on a report examining the ways in which international climate finance approaches promote projects on the nexus of climate change, human mobility, and fragility, and what conditions are necessary for this to happen. An evaluation of exemplary projects shows that central financing instruments such as the Adaptation Fund, the Green Climate Fund, the Least Developing Country Fund, as multilateral approaches, or the International Climate Initiative as a bilateral one address individual aspects of human mobility in projects. However, there has not been a systematic embedding of conflict-sensitive frameworks.

*Publication expected in 2023.

Five selected publications

The landscape of financing options to address human mobility in the context of climate change (2022)

The implementation of timely and diversified financing measures can dampen the effects of climate shocks, preserve and rebuild livelihoods and significantly reduce future costs. This study presents an overview of sources of financing for human mobility in the context of climate change (HMCCC) and a list of 10 financial instruments and tools for addressing this issue.

A Conceptual Model of Climate Change and Human Mobility Interactions (2022)

This paper presents a conceptual model of climate change and human mobility interactions. The model outlines possible pathways connecting climate hazards and climate adaptation with different modes of human mobility. Moreover, it discusses a number of social, political, economic, legal, and other variables that intervene in these pathways and affect adaptation options and mobility decisions in the wake of sudden and slow-onset climatic hazards. The model is meant to guide a scenario planning exercise with stakeholders and decision makers as part of the HABITABLE project.

Migration, environment and climate change: Responding via climate change adaptation policy (2020)

This publication is the third report in the “Migration, environment and climate change” series and addresses policymakers working in the field of climate change adaptation policy. It offers entry points and preliminary conclusions about to strengthen responses to environmental migration in the context of recent developments in international climate policy and finance, as well as other international processes, such as the Global Compact for Migration, the Sustainable Development Goals, and the Platform on Disaster Displacement.

The Vulnerable Twenty – From Climate Risks to Adaptation (2018)

This report serves as a compendium of the Vulnerable 20 Group’s climate risk profiles, adaptation needs and policy approaches where migration features heavily (due to the risks related to sea-level rise and livelihood insecurity more generally). The varying climate risks the V20 countries face are outlined, and adaptation finance needs identified by national governments are reviewed. In addition, the report provides insights into the potential role of adaptation planning and risk insurance.

Spreading Disease, Spreading Conflict? – COVID-19, Climate Change and Security Risks (2020)

The COVID-19 pandemic has profound global impacts. While all countries have been affected, the pandemic is hitting those that were already struggling with poverty, conflict and the impacts of climate change especially hard. This report seeks to explore these dynamics, dedicating a chapter to the reduced effectiveness of migration as an adaptation strategy.