World Environment Day 2015: “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care."

By Dina Ionesco

World Environment Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on the complex linkages that relate human beings to their environment.  One in seven people on this planet is a migrant and the fact that they are on the move impacts the lives of billions more people.

Throughout history, human beings have migrated in search of opportunities and a better life. Migration is driven by many complex, socio-economic factors and often lies at the heart of a person’s wellbeing.

Some migrants leave in search of greater happiness and prosperity. Others are forced to move to escape persecution, conflict or natural disasters. But the reason that people migrate now more than ever before relates to depleted resources that have resulted in the loss of their livelihoods.

As more people are moving as a consequence of environmental degradation, we can no longer ignore the complex nexus between migration and the environment. The environment is now recognized as a major driver of migration. Migration, conversely, is also impacting more than ever before the environment of the migrants’ places of origin, transit and destination.

It is now also widely recognized that the movement of people is intrinsically linked to climate change, as described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC.) Climate change makes tens of millions of people vulnerable, both by forcing displacement and by limiting people’s ability to use mobility to adapt.

Climate and environmental change impact on human mobility in various ways. One of them is the increase in frequency and intensity of natural disasters and their effects on displacement. An average of 27 million people were newly displaced by disasters each year between 2008 and 2013, according to IDMC.

Another aspect is land degradation. In Latin America, this is affecting Mexico’s dryland regions, forcing 600,000 to 700,000 people to permanently migrate from these areas every year.

By 2025, up to 2.4 billion people worldwide, representing between 15–20% of the projected global population, will be living in areas subject to periods of intense drought. Another 50 million will live in areas threatened with desertification, according to UNCCD. 

By 2020, IPCC projects that in Africa alone, between 75 and 250 million people will be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change.

Populations living in low elevation coastal zones that today host around 10 per cent of the world’s population will also be exposed to risk from rising sea levels. The 50 largest cities in the world are currently located on coasts and will be affected.

Today, we have a unique window of opportunity to have migration understood and addressed in the context of the global fight against climate change.

IOM’s work on migration, environment and climate change is underpinned by the belief that human mobility policies can contribute to better policies to address climate change, and that migration policies cannot ignore environmental and climatic factors.

We are committed to contributing to ambitious climate action and to helping societies to adapt to existing and future climate change challenges, with a particular focus to having human mobility integrated and considered in the Paris Climate agreement.

In view of the climate negotiations, IOM is supporting the climate community and political action on climate change through many different concrete initiatives.

We are building new evidence and sharing it through the MECLEP project*; developing technical contributions in collaboration with the “Advisory Group on Climate Change and Human Mobility”[1]  that are submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat and to negotiating parties; and enhancing policy dialogue across policy areas.

We are also committed to contribute to the Agenda of Solutions, in particular with initiatives that include migrants and diasporas in the global response to climate change. 

Furthermore, we are dedicated to support States - in particular those most vulnerable to climate change - to build their capacities, by offering national and regional trainings on how to add address the many human mobility challenges in the context of climate change.

The preparations for the climate negotiations allow States to bring human mobility challenges and opportunities in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), as well as in their National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), and we can also support practitioners in this regard.

Human mobility concerns should be integrated across all the substantive pillars of the expected Paris Agreement.

Migration challenges and opportunities are important for both adaptation and mitigation strategies, and migrants and diasporas’ financial transfers to developing countries vulnerable to climate change should be integrated in the global financing architecture.

We should not miss the opportunity to have migration and migrants included in action against climate change, or we will continue to disconnect the environment and its resources from the people who live, grow and evolve with it.


Links :

Environmental Migration Portal Newsletter – June 2015 (Special Edition for World Environment Day):
Link to UNEP :
Link to IOM Environmental Migration Portal*
Link to MECLEP Brochure:
Link to IOM MECC Web Page:


[1] The “Advisory Group on Climate Change and Human Mobility” includes the following entities among others: the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and its Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC). The Group works to share most recent available knowledge with UNFCCC Parties to ensure that human mobility is taken into consideration in global climate negotiations and provides technical support to Parties.