IOM Welcomes Inclusion of ‘Climate Migrants’, ‘Climate Migration’ in Draft Paris COP Agreement

Switzerland - IOM welcomes the inclusion of ‘climate migrants’ and ‘climate migration’ in the text expected to be agreed as part of the Paris climate change agreement.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21, is being held in Le Bourget, France, near Paris. It is expected to result in a legally binding universal agreement on climate from the world’s nations.

The inclusion of specific language highlighting the importance of “promoting, protecting and respecting…the rights of migrants in vulnerable climate situations” is viewed as a significant breakthrough by those concerned with human mobility in all its forms.

“Now that climate change and migration are an integral part of the draft agreement, we can justifiably speak of ‘climate migration’ and ‘climate migrants’,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

Swing spoke as Chair of the ONE UN High Level Roundtable  “Human Mobility and Climate Change” on the margins of the Paris negotiations. Roundtable participants included representatives from States, international organizations, civil society and politicians. Speakers included Nicolas Hulot, Special Envoy of the French President for the Protection of the Planet, together with representatives of Bangladesh, UNOCHA, UNHCR, UNCCD, IPCC, ILO, the European Parliament and others.

“We face major migration and refugee movements, and climate change is among the root causes of the record number of persons forced to migrate. By taking action to harness the positive potential of migration as an adaptation strategy to climate change we can support those who might need sooner or later to migrate with dignity,” he noted.

Swing pointed to the experience of the 104,000 inhabitants of Kiribati – an island state threatened with complete disappearance – or the 192 million additional people expected to live in floodplains in urban areas in Africa and Asia by 2060.

In Micronesia, a recent IOM survey revealed that two out of three adults talk about climate change with their families, including the potential impacts on their mobility choices.

“Not all of these people will become climate migrants, but now is the time to get prepared in order to avoid future tragedies,” said Swing.

To prepare for such eventuality IOM is implementing a large scale project Migration, Environment and Climate: Evidence for Policy (MECLEP) underwritten by the European Union.  Its aim is to help countries to comprehend the links between migration and adaptation.

In Haiti, IOM found that seasonal migration is a successful adaptation strategy, while displacement due to natural disasters increases vulnerability and needs to be prevented by disaster risk reduction. The Government of Haiti has now integrated internal migration and the environment in its draft migration policy.

For more information please contact Dina Ionesco at IOM HQ. Email:, Tel +41 798 591 0177.