05 October 2021

Climate change shifting the distribution of world populations

In June 2020, the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced persons in the Council of Europe tabled a motion for a new resolution, wherein the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe would study the growing relationship between climate change and migration. In August 2021, Chairperson of the Committee, Pierre-Alain Fridez, submitted a new report in the Parliamentary Assembly with an assessment of climate change-induced migration and arrived at many recommendations to mitigate the impact of climate change on affected populations.

The report explains how the slow-onset effects of climate change are hugely responsible for shifting the distribution of world populations and the movement of people within and across sovereign borders. Slow onset events such as increasing temperatures, desertification, loss of biodiversity, land and forest degradation; glacial retreat and related impacts, ocean acidification, sea-level rise; and salinization are forcefully displacing millions of people across the globe as living conditions become unviable for vulnerable communities. According to the World Bank, around 40.5 million people were internally displaced in 2020, bringing the current number of internally displaced people (IDPs) to 55 million people. 

The report further recognizes that the worsening effects of climate change are increasingly responsible for spurring conflict over the competition of scarce natural resources. The report also warns that the outcome of populations struggling to secure scarce resources could even lead to war. Recognizing that the current efforts to combat climate change are insufficient, the report presented action steps for the Council of Europe to prevent mass displacement. In particular, special attention must be paid to the vulnerable populations such as children, persons with disabilities, women and the elderly. Given the forced nature of climate change-induced displacements, the report urges the Council of Europe to enhance human rights protection instruments. To that end, the Assembly further encourages that the human rights of those affected by climate change-induced migration must be structurally embedded in international instruments that influence migration – from disaster preparedness and climate adaptation instruments to economic development strategies. Moreover, states should be better equipped to assess climate change-induced migratory trends, anticipate new developments through dynamic mapping mechanisms and enhance disaster resilience.  

Lastly, in addition to calls for developing greater cooperation amongst relevant multilateral bodies, the Assembly urged member states to initiate and contribute to the creation of a World Solidarity Fund for Climate Migration to assist host and origin countries. The report advises the international community to step up development cooperation with countries most susceptible to climate related-risks to improve the living conditions, so populations living in Sub-Saharan Africa or the Sahel region do not feel forced to flee or migrate.  

Read the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) here

Photo credit: IOM - UN Migration/Flickr