Climate-Linked Migration Poses Growing Humanitarian Threat - Study

News Release | 13 March 2012

BANGKOK, THAILAND - Climate change will cause an upward surge in migration this century, and governments in disaster-prone Asia-Pacific nations must promptly enact a broad range of measures to stave off future humanitarian crises, according to a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report released today.

The report, Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific, notes that more than 42 million people in the region were displaced by environmental disasters over the past two years alone. An undetermined number of those displaced became migrants, unable to return home or choosing to relocate to safer ground.

"The environment is becoming a significant driver of migration in Asia and the Pacific as the population grows in vulnerable areas, such as low-lying coastal zones and eroding river banks," said Bindu Lohani, ADB's Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development. "Governments should not wait to act. By taking steps now, they can reduce vulnerability, strengthen resiliency, and use migration as an adaptation tool rather than let it become an act of desperation."

The report is among the first to identify policy responses to the impacts of environmental events on migration in Asia and the Pacific. The report points out that while most migration will continue to take place within countries, greater cross-border movement is also foreseen and governments will need to cooperate more closely on migration matters. The report identifies existing international agreements, guidelines, principles, and dialogue forums that can be more effectively used to improve migration management.

To accommodate the anticipated increase in migrant flows to the region's megacities, the report recommends greater investments in urban infrastructure and basic services. The report also identifies a need to protect migrant rights and to provide migrants with equitable access to education, health, water and sanitation.

The report cites the importance of strengthening the resilience of climate-threatened communities. Areas for action include improving disaster risk management systems and creating livelihood opportunities. The report also notes that reducing transfer fees for migrant remittances can provide additional resources for migrant-sending communities to improve their adaptive capacity.

Climate adaptation costs for Asia-Pacific nations are estimated at a staggering $40 billion through 2050, and while there are environmental funds, none are currently dedicated to addressing climate-induced migration issues. The report recommends governments work with the private sector to introduce sea level index-based insurance, catastrophe bonds and weather derivatives to draw investors into financing and managing the risks posed by climate change.