Climate Change and Migration

Over the past 20 years, the EU repeatedly addressed the climate change – migration nexus in communications related mainly to the external dimension of migration. More prominently, the EU’s Global Approach to Migration and Mobility acknowledged the regional relevance of climate-related migration, proposing development and humanitarian aid politics as the EU’s main focus.

2013 Commission Staff Working Document ‘Climate change, environmental degradation, and migration’ was produced as a response to a request by the European Council in the Stockholm Programme with regards to potential effects on migration to the EU and concluded that:

‘given the strong evidence that most migration which is primarily driven by environmental change is likely to occur within the Global South, much of the analysis of the paper and many of its recommendations are of specific relevance for EU policies with an external focus, including on development, foreign policy and humanitarian aid.’

More recently, the Commission Communication on the European Green Deal recognises that ‘the global climate and environmental challenges are a significant threat multiplier and a source of instability’ and commits the EU to ‘work with all partners to increase climate and environmental resilience to prevent these challenges from becoming sources of conflict, food insecurity, population displacement and forced migration, and support a just transition globally’.

While other instruments like the Joint Valletta Action Plan mention environmental trends as one of several root causes of forced displacement, the Commission's communication on “Lives in dignity” addresses climate change as an aggravating factor forcing people to flee. The new “Communication on the EU’s humanitarian action: new challenges, same principles” also acknowledges climate and disasters among the root causes of displacement and brings in important elements on prevention, preparedness and responses.

One of the stated objectives is ‘mainstreaming climate change impacts and environmental factors into humanitarian aid policy and practice, and strengthen coordination with development, security and climate/environment actors to build resilience of vulnerable communities.’

The New Pact on Migration and Asylum proposes to address migration not in isolation but together with other policies, including climate change.

In addition, the EU has played an active role in important global platforms such as the Platform on Disaster Displacement, which the EU will chair as of June 2022.

Full titleClimate change and migration - Discussion Paper
PublisherCouncil of EU, 13376/21
Media typeLimite Paper
Topics Perspectives on Migration, European Externalization Policies & Cash Flows
Regions Europe

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