Climate Crises and Migration Trends
What does the Global Stocktake tell us about Human Mobility Ahead of COP28?
Emilie Joe Brandt
At the end of November, leaders from across the world will gather in Dubai for the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference — more commonly referred to as COP28. This meeting is central to establishing the international agenda on climate, determining ambition and responsibilities, while simultaneously assessing current global climate measures. With the humanitarian crisis worsening in Gaza and migrant workers laboring in 42C heat to build COP28 conference facilities, it is clear that the climate crisis does not exist in a vacuum. Challenges caused by human displacement, violence and climate catastrophe are intimately intertwined— not only in the Middle East, where COP28 will be held, but globally. While important, technical solutions alone are not enough to address the layered and disproportionate impacts of the climate crisis. Consequently, leaders in government and civil society should interrogate and anticipate the impacts of climate change on trends in human mobility, building capacity for the future. Analyzing the Global Stocktake’s implications on human mobility trends is a good place to start.
What is the Global Stocktake?
The Global Stocktake is a mechanism created by the Paris Agreement to take inventory of the global response to the climate crisis, evaluating collective progress and providing insight to inform future climate action. It takes place every five years and this COP28 is particularly exciting because it will mark the conclusion of the first-ever Global Stocktake — a historical moment in climate diplomacy.
The Global Stocktake is conducted in three steps, summarized by the World Resources Institute:
The first and second steps of the Global Stocktake have concluded and key findings were summarized in an overarching Synthesis Report released in September of 2023. The report shows that by prioritizing climate action, global progress has been made, illustrating how temperatures are now expected to rise by 2.4-2.6 degrees C by the end of the century (an improvement from the 3.7-4.8 degrees C estimated in 2010). However, the report makes it clear that urgent action is still needed across systems to combat the climate crisis and hold global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C.
Another key part of the Global Stocktake is its emphasis on the importance of equity, just transitions, and placing people at the heart of the climate transition. One of the key findings asserts that “a focus on inclusion and equity can increase ambition in climate action and support.”
Systems transformation can be disruptive, the report continues, so the voices of those most affected by the climate crisis must be centered when crafting solutions. Further, constraints to taking climate action —such as poverty, inequity, and injustice, as well as economic, institutional, social, and capacity barriers— must be addressed through integrated and inclusive climate policymaking. The report summarized it best, saying “finding creative ways to overcome barriers and challenges within national contexts requires dedicated attention.”
(Li-An Lim, Unsplash)
What Does This Mean for Migration/Human Mobility?
While much of the Global Stocktake provides essential technical insights, it also speaks to the broader social and political context shaping climate action, highlighting the necessity of whole-of-society approaches for change. This analysis affirms what many in both the migration rights and climate policy spaces have argued for decades: these policy issues must not be siloed. The effects of climate change are already being felt by migrants and refugees across the world, and human mobility will be intertwined with all dimensions of the climate crisis in the coming decades.
Despite the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre reporting that over 376 million people around the world have been forcibly displaced by floods, windstorms, earthquakes or droughts since 2008, it remains that there is no existing international legal standard to protect people displaced by climate disaster.
In ‘Thinking Tomorrow: Acting Today,’ the IOM urges “global action on climate change and human mobility has to be proactive and forward-looking. It has to prepare for and anticipate the changes that are to come. And it has to identify in advance which groups and communities will be worst affected and are most at risk and are likely to move, or will be unable to move, over short and long-term time horizons. To address this need, the IOM outlines three types of solutions needed:
Solutions for people to move: Promoting migration as an adaptation to climate change and ensuring that those who choose to move can do so safely whilst enhancing the positive impacts of their mobility for themselves, their families, and communities of origin and destination.
Solutions for people on the move: Ensuring that those who have moved are provided with necessary support and assistance, including through comprehensive humanitarian programming.
Solutions supporting people to stay: Offering options for remaining in areas of origin in a dignified manner and reducing forced displacement.
The Global Stocktake reveals just how urgently we need this proactive and forward-looking policy, addressing solutions for people to move, on the move, and to stay.
On the agenda at COP28 is a promising opportunity: The Loss and Damage Fund. The Fund provides a historic opportunity for the international community to come together and share the burden of the climate crisis. Additionally, it presents an opportunity for states to be proactive and collaborative, embedding climate mobility considerations into the Loss and Damage mechanism from the onset. Doing so could bolster capacity and provide the impetus for climate mobility action in countries that will be particularly affected.
Just last week, the OECD announced that developed countries have scaled up their climate finance contributions, likely reaching the $100 billion climate finance goal set in 2009. Reaching this long overdue goal is a crucial step in the right direction, rebuilding trust and illustrating the capacity of climate finance mobilization. However, it remains true that the scale of climate finance must be expanded to fully rise to the climate challenge and anticipate human mobility challenges.
As COP28 approaches, it is essential for the international community— governments, civil society groups, and citizens alike— to think proactively about the effects of climate change on human mobility. We must act now if we want to protect our people, nature, and climate going forward.