Climate Mobility Web Post

The definition of climate induced displacement has been a subject of debate for a considerable period of time in global migration discourses. There are several reasons for this. However, the most common criticism towards scholars who research climate induced migration is the challenges of quantifying climate induced displacement. In a 2011 article published by Francois Gemenne, the author argues that despite climate induced migration gaining increased attention in recent times, the determination of cause-effect as well as the estimates of persons affected is rarely methodologically prudent. The author identifies the divide amongst scholars who he identifies as “minimalists” who believe migration of any kind is multi-causal and “maximalists” who argue that climate change is one of the major drivers of displacement and migration. As a main driving factor or a contributing cause for forced displacement, however, the impact of climate change on the forced migration of persons cannot be undermined or denied.

The IOM defines climate induced displacement as

“...the movement of a person or groups of persons who, predominantly for reasons of sudden or progressive change in the environment due to climate change, are obliged to leave their habitual place of residence, or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, within a State or across an international border” (International Organization for Migration; IOM)

Within this definition of climate induced displacement - which is also shared by scholars such as Robert McLeman - one can infer two types of climate induced displacement causes. These are “sudden changes/climate events” and “progressive changes” which both result in the forced uprooting of persons. Literature concurs that both types of climate changes have increased in volume since the industrial era and the increased emission of harmful green gasses and other adverse human activities.

Sudden climate changes are those that relate to the onset of certain disasters such as floods, hurricanes, monsoons and other examples of natural occurrences which consequently pose an immediate danger to the person and security of individuals which can result in forced displacement. Climate processes or progressive impacts of migration on the other hand refers to slow changes to the climate which may not necessarily have immediate impacts on persons but threaten to affect the livelihood of communities in the foreseeable future. Examples of such climate change impacts include the rising of the sea level, degradation of agrarian land, deforestation as well as the rise in the lack of food and water among other examples.

With the rise of both sudden and progressive climate occurrences in different parts of Africa, global, regional and sub-regional initiatives on the management of migration have paid increased attention to the thematic topic. The African Union launched the African Climate Mobility Initiative in September 2021 as a joint effort between the African Union Commission, the World Bank, the UNDP, the IOM and the UNFCCC as a people-centered and evidence-based initiative for collective action against climate mobility.

Recognizing the impact of climate change on the movement of persons - be it forced or voluntary - one of the four focus areas for FES AMPC is climate mobility. To this end the center collaborates with the African Union, Regional Economic Communities, civil society networks, think-tanks and other like minded stakeholders towards knowledge creation and dialogue on the impact of climate change on the mobility of African citizens.

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