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Climate Migration: What Happened at COP23?

The 23rd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP23), held under the Presidency of Fiji, concluded on 17 November 2017. This COP represented the opportunity to take stock of how climate migration continues to be integrated not only in the official climate negotiations but also in the numerous events organized on the margins of the conference.

On the official negotiation side, decision CP.23 of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts “encourages Parties to actively engage in the work and to disseminate, promote and make use of the products of the Warsaw International Mechanism and its Executive Committee", including by:

Incorporating or continuing to incorporate the consideration of extreme weather events and slow onset events, non-economic losses, climate change impacts on human mobility, including migration, displacement and planned relocation, and comprehensive risk management into relevant policy, planning and action, as appropriate, and encouraging relevant bilateral and multilateral entities to support such efforts (decision CP.23, para 13 (c)).

In addition, the Executive Committee (Excom) of the WIM presented its report to the COP. The report touched upon the development of the Excom five-year rolling workplan which includes a work stream on human mobility and migration. This signifies that following the Paris Agreement, climate migration continues to be integrated formally into the climate negotiations and that this will be the case for at least the next five years – a significant advance considering that a few years ago, migration was a marginal issue in the global climate change discourse. This institutionalization opens up possibilities to engage at both policy and operational levels, in support of the States facing climate migration challenges as well as of the migrants themselves.

However, despite the progress seen in past years, there are still many challenges to take into account. The complexity of the negotiation structure makes it sometimes difficult to provide meaningful inputs, especially for non-states actors. In addition, the discussions undertaken on climate migration remain politically sensitive, with the usual divide between developed and developing countries. Finally, the technicalities of climate migration remain little understood within the climate change policy arena and it is essential to ensure that knowledge and data are shared with the decision makers. However, the next steps scheduled for 2018 should help fill some of these gaps, notably the organization of an expert meeting on climate change and human mobility by IOM and the Platform on Disaster Displacement as part of the work of the WIM Excom Task Force on Displacement, foreseen for May 2018.

Finally, it is also important to note that it is not only among the policymakers that interest is growing; there is profound engagement on the topic from the academia, civil society and media. Back in 2014, only a few minutes in an official side event at COP20 in Lima were dedicated to mobility matters; this year in Bonn, more than 20 events looked at the various dimensions of the climate change and human mobility nexus.

Forthcoming event

108th Session of the IOM Council
High-Level Panel Discussion: Opportunities to Address Migration and Climate Change in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration

Thursday, 30 November, 15:00-16:00
Conference Room XVII, Palais des Nations
Geneva, Switzerland

In the past ten years, environmental migration has been primarily acknowledged and addressed at the international level in climate change negotiations. The global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration offers yet another unique opportunity, this time within the international migration governance policy realm, to recognize the importance of environmental and climate factors.

To assess this opportunity, IOM is organizing a high-level panel at its annual governing body meeting, the IOM Council. The panel aims to stress that the international community can no longer design migration policy without taking into account the environmental state of our planet. If forced migration is to be avoided and safe migration is to be facilitated, it is no longer possible to ignore the challenges posed by environmental and climate risks and their impacts on all policy areas.


The progress made in acknowledging environmental migration at the international level brings nevertheless another challenge, namely to ensure coherence between multiple policy areas at stake. Identifying opportunities to link the development of the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration and of that of the Global Pact for the Environment with the implementation of the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will also be addressed in the discussion.

The Panel will be accompanied by a photo exhibition from the Humans & Climate Change Stories, a unique media project of photographer Samuel Turpin, that follows 12 families scattered around the globe, who are subject to different types of climate change impacts, over the course of the next 10 years.