Meet the hu­man faces of cli­mate mi­gra­tion

With­out con­crete cli­mate and devel­op­ment ac­tion, Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa could have 86 mil­lion in­ter­nal cli­mate mi­grants by 2050.

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents - Source: World­bank.org

Hu­man­ity has al­ways been on the move.

Peo­ple move for many rea­sons – eco­nomic, so­cial, and po­lit­i­cal. Now, cli­mate change has emerged as a ma­jor driver of mi­gra­tion, pro­pel­ling in­creas­ing num­bers of peo­ple to move from vul­ner­a­ble to more vi­able ar­eas of their coun­tries to build new lives.

The newly re­leased World Bank re­port, Groundswell: Pre­par­ing for In­ter­nal Cli­mate Mi­gra­tion, analy­ses this re­cent phe­nom­e­non and projects for­ward to 2050. Fo­cus­ing on three re­gions – Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, South Asia, and Latin Amer­ica – the re­port warns that un­less ur­gent cli­mate and devel­op­ment ac­tion is taken, these three re­gions could be deal­ing with a com­bined to­tal of over 140 mil­lion in­ter­nal cli­mate mi­grants by 2050. These peo­ple will be pushed out by droughts, fail­ing crops, ris­ing sea lev­els, and storm surges. But there is still a way out: with con­certed ac­tion – in­clud­ing global ef­forts to cut green­house gas emis­sions, com­bined with ro­bust devel­op­ment plan­ning at the coun­try level – the num­ber of peo­ple forced to move due to cli­mate change could be re­duced by as much as 80 per­cent – or 100 mil­lion peo­ple.

“We have a small win­dow now, be­fore the ef­fects of cli­mate change deepen, to pre­pare the ground for this new re­al­ity. Steps cities take to cope with the up­ward trend of ar­rivals from ru­ral ar­eas and to im­prove op­por­tu­ni­ties for ed­u­ca­tion, train­ing and jobs will pay long-term div­i­dends. It’s also im­por­tant to help peo­ple make good de­ci­sions about whether to stay where they are or move to new lo­ca­tions where they are less vul­ner­a­ble," says Kristalina Ge­orgieva, World Bank Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Officer.

Cli­mate mi­grants: the hu­man face of cli­mate change

The re­port looks closely at three coun­try ex­am­ples: Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Mex­ico, all coun­tries with very dif­fer­ent cli­matic, liveli­hood, de­mo­graphic, mi­gra­tion and devel­op­ment pat­terns.

It is worth tak­ing a mo­ment to re­mem­ber that be­hind all trends there are real peo­ple with dreams, hopes, and as­pi­ra­tions. We met three peo­ple whose lives have been trans­formed in dif­fer­ent ways as they have dealt with the im­pacts of cli­mate change.

Monoara Khatun is a 23-year-old seam­stress from Kuri­gram, Bangladesh. Her vil­lage has been flooded many times and this has led to in­creas­ing un­em­ploy­ment and food scarcity.

“Floods come every year, but this year the sit­u­a­tion is worse,” says Monoara. “Be­cause of the flood­ing, there are not a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties for work, es­pe­cially for women in our vil­lage. My house is badly af­fected by this year’s flood, and many rice pad­dies got washed away.”

Monoara moved to the cap­i­tal city, Dhaka where she was con­nected to the NARI project, a World Bank ini­tia­tive de­signed to pro­vide train­ing, tran­si­tional hous­ing, coun­selling and job place­ment ser­vices for poor and vul­ner­a­ble women. Since then, she has been able to sup­port her fam­ily back in Kuri­gram and has gained fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence. Monoara’s story high­lights the im­por­tance of good devel­op­ment plan­ning through pro­grammes like NARI, help­ing coun­tries be bet­ter pre­pared for in­creased mi­gra­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port’s “pes­simistic” sce­nario, South Asia is pro­jected to have 40 mil­lion in­ter­nal cli­mate mi­grants by 2050, with Bangladesh con­tribut­ing a third of that num­ber. Right now, close to half of Bangladesh’s pop­u­la­tion de­pends on agri­cul­ture, so changes in wa­ter avail­abil­ity and crop pro­duc­tiv­ity could drive ma­jor shifts in pop­u­la­tion. Bangladesh has al­ready un­der­taken ini­tia­tives in the wa­ter, health, forestry, agri­cul­ture, and in­fra­struc­ture sec­tors to main­stream cli­mate adap­ta­tion into its na­tional devel­op­ment plans. Sev­eral adap­ta­tion pro­grammes are un­der­way, in­clud­ing a pro­gramme to en­hance food se­cu­rity in the north­west of the coun­try and an­other to en­cour­age labour mi­gra­tion from the north­west dur­ing the dry sea­son.

Wolde Danse, a 28-year-old from Ethiopia, is also turn­ing ad­ver­sity into a chance to change the course of his life. The eighth of 16 chil­dren, he left his fa­ther’s small farm in a drought-stricken part of his coun­try and moved to the city of Hawassa in search of new op­por­tu­ni­ties: “In the plant­ing sea­son, it wouldn’t rain, but when we didn’t want it, it would rain. This cre­ated drought, and be­cause of this, I didn’t want to suf­fer any­more.” Af­ter some ini­tial strug­gles, Wolde en­rolled in Ethiopia’s ex­ten­sive ur­ban safety net pro­gramme, and now he re­ceives a small salary for su­per­vis­ing street clean­ers. As part of the pro­gramme, Wolde can at­tend Hawassa’s uni­ver­sity with­out pay­ing tu­ition, and he’s plan­ning to fin­ish his stud­ies to ben­e­fit his coun­try and his fam­ily.

With­out con­crete cli­mate and devel­op­ment ac­tion, Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa could have 86 mil­lion in­ter­nal cli­mate mi­grants by 2050, with Ethiopia one of the most vul­ner­a­ble coun­tries to cli­mate change in Africa, due to its reliance on rain­fed agri­cul­ture. Ethiopia’s pop­u­la­tion is likely to grow by 60-85 per­cent by 2050, plac­ing ad­di­tional pres­sure on the coun­try’s nat­u­ral re­sources and in­sti­tu­tions. Ethiopia is tak­ing steps to di­ver­sify its econ­omy and pre­pare for in­creased in­ter­nal mi­gra­tion.

Some­times, how­ever, mi­gra­tion is not the an­swer

Some com­mu­ni­ties are find­ing ways to deal with cli­mate change that don’t re­quire mi­gra­tion. Javier Martinez, 26, and his brother have cho­sen to stay in their com­mu­nity in Oax­aca, Mex­ico and ex­pand their car­pen­try busi­ness. They have been able to do so thanks to a sus­tain­able forestry pro­gramme that has helped to at­tract in­vestors and en­abled the com­mu­nity to adapt to a chang­ing cli­mate while build­ing eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties. Javier ex­plains: “At the for­est level there is em­ploy­ment, in busi­nesses there is em­ploy­ment, so there is not a strong need to go away, be­cause in the com­mu­nity there is a wide range of op­por­tu­ni­ties.” Ef­forts like these around the world to build more sus­tain­able forestry pro­grammes are pay­ing cli­mate div­i­dends glob­ally and sup­port­ing economies like Javier’s lo­cally.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port’s worst-case sce­nario, Latin Amer­ica is pro­jected to have 17 mil­lion in­ter­nal cli­mate mi­grants by 2050. Mex­ico is a large and di­verse coun­try in terms of phys­i­cal ge­og­ra­phy, cli­mate, bio­di­ver­sity, de­mo­graphic and so­cial com­po­si­tion, eco­nomic devel­op­ment, and cul­ture. Rain-fed crop­land ar­eas are likely to ex­pe­ri­ence the great­est “out-mi­gra­tion”, mainly as a re­sult of de­clin­ing crop pro­duc­tiv­ity. There will also be in­creases in av­er­age and ex­treme tem­per­a­tures, es­pe­cially in low-ly­ing (and there­fore hot­ter) re­gions, such as coastal Mex­ico and es­pe­cially the Yu­catan.

How­ever, as an up­per-mid­dle-in­come coun­try with a di­ver­si­fied and ex­pand­ing econ­omy, a pre­dom­i­nantly ur­ban pop­u­la­tion, and a large youth pop­u­la­tion en­ter­ing the labour force, Mex­ico has the po­ten­tial to adapt to cli­mate change. Still, pock­ets of poverty will per­sist, given that cli­mate-sen­si­tive small­hold­ers, selfem­ployed farm­ers and in­de­pen­dent farm­ers tend to have higher than av­er­age poverty rates.

Tak­ing ac­tion

Monoara, Wolde and Javier’s sto­ries tell us that, while in­ter­nal cli­mate mi­gra­tion is a grow­ing re­al­ity in many coun­tries, it doesn’t have to be a cri­sis. With im­proved poli­cies, coun­tries have the chance to re­duce the num­ber of peo­ple forced to move due to cli­mate change by as much as 80 per­cent by 2050.

The re­port finds that coun­tries can take ac­tion in three main ar­eas:

1. Cut green­house gases now:

Strong global cli­mate ac­tion is needed to meet the Paris Agree­ment’s goal of lim­it­ing fu­ture tem­per­a­ture in­crease to less than 2°C by the end of this cen­tury. How­ever, even at this level of warm­ing, coun­tries will be locked into a cer­tain level of in­ter­nal cli­mate mi­gra­tion. Still higher lev­els of green­house gas emis­sions could lead to the se­vere dis­rup­tion of liveli­hoods and ecosys­tems, fur­ther ex­ac­er­bat­ing the con­di­tions for in­creased cli­mate mi­gra­tion.

2. Embed cli­mate mi­gra­tion in devel­op­ment plan­ning:

There is an ur­gent need for coun­tries to in­te­grate cli­mate mi­gra­tion into na­tional devel­op­ment plans. Most re­gions have laws, poli­cies, and strate­gies that are poorly equipped to deal with peo­ple mov­ing from ar­eas of in­creas­ing cli­mate risk into ar­eas that may al­ready be heav­ily pop­u­lated. To se­cure re­silience and devel­op­ment prospects for ev­ery­one af­fected, ac­tion is needed at every phase of mi­gra­tion (be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter mov­ing).

3. In­vest now to im­prove data on the scale and scope of lo­cal cli­mate mi­gra­tion:

More in­vest­ment is needed to bet­ter un­der­stand and con­tex­tu­al­ize the scale, na­ture, and mag­ni­tude of cli­mate changein­duced mi­gra­tion. Ev­i­dence-based re­search, com­ple­mented by coun­try-level modelling, is vi­tal. In sup­port of this, new data sources, in­clud­ing from satel­lite im­agery and mo­bile phones, com­bined with ad­vances in cli­mate in­for­ma­tion, can help coun­tries im­prove the qual­ity of in­for­ma­tion about likely in­ter­nal mi­gra­tion.

Wolde Danse

Javier Martinez

Monoara Khatun

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