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23 December 2015

COP21 Paris Agreement: A Stepping Stone for Climate Migrants

By Dina Ionesco

The COP21 Paris Agreement adopted by world governments on 12th December 2015 represents a unprecedented breakthrough for action on migration and climate with the formal inclusion of “migrants” in the Preamble of the Agreement.

It reads: “Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity”.

Some 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal - the first major multilateral deal of the 21st century. It sets out a global action plan to limit global warming to well below 2°C.  

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Syrian refugees crossing the Serbian-Croatian border. © Francesco Malavolta/IOM 2015

The Ominous Story of Syria's Climate Refugees

Farmers who have escaped the battle-torn nation explain how drought and government abuse have driven social violence, writes John Wendle for the Scientific American.

Kemal Ali ran a successful well-digging business for farmers in northern Syria for 30 years. He had everything he needed for the job: a heavy driver to pound pipe into the ground, a battered but reliable truck to carry his machinery, a willing crew of young men to do the grunt work. More than that, he had a sharp sense of where to dig as well as trusted contacts in local government on whom he could count to look the other way if he bent the rules. Then things changed. In the winter of 2006–2007, the water table began sinking like never before.

Ali had a problem. “Before the drought I would have to dig 60 or 70 meters to find water,” he recalls. “Then I had to dig 100 to 200 meters. Then, when the drought hit very strongly, I had to dig 500 meters. The deepest I ever had to dig was 700 meters. The water kept dropping and dropping.” From that winter through 2010, Syria suffered its most devastating drought on record. Ali’s business disappeared. He tried to find work but could not. Social uprisings in the country began to escalate. He was almost killed by crossfire. Now Ali sits in a wheelchair at a camp for wounded and ill refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos.

Climatologists say Syria is a grim preview of what could be in store for the larger Middle East, the Mediterranean and other parts of the world. The drought, they maintain, was exacerbated by climate change. The Fertile Crescent—the birthplace of agriculture some 12,000 years ago—is drying out. Syria’s drought has destroyed crops, killed livestock and displaced as many as 1.5 million Syrian farmers. In the process, it touched off the social turmoil that burst into civil war, according to a study published in March in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

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Migration in the News


Trending on the Internet


  • First Post reported that refugees will be at the heart of the next Berlin film festival in February 2016, with hundreds of free tickets for asylum seekers and new movies spotlighting Europe's historic influx.

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