Village in the Somali region of Ethiopia where nomads have settled because of the ongoing drought

Climate change and development Migration and climate

Besides poverty and a lack of prospects, further significant drivers of migration and displacement that have emerged are the short- and long-term consequences of climate change. Development policy contributes to slowing down climate change, mitigating its consequences and dealing with the new risks it entails. The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is pursuing a comprehensive approach, which also takes into account migration as an adaptation strategy.

Background information Human mobility in the context of climate change Internal link

The patterns of population movements induced by climate change are as diverse as the effects of climate change themselves. There are three main forms of mobility: voluntary migration, forced displacement, and planned relocation.

cover migration as a result

BMZ factsheet: Human mobility as a result of climate change

File type PDF | Date of status 03/2021 | File size 412 KB, Pages 2 Pages

Climate change is threatening the livelihoods of many people. Extreme weather events and slow-onset environmental changes like soil salinisation and rising sea levels all have long-term consequences for the incomes, health and safety of people living in the places thus affected. Violent conflicts can also be exacerbated by the impacts of climate change. In some places it is becoming so hard to get by that people are forced to leave their homes.

Developing countries are particularly affected by climate change, yet their resources for addressing the consequences are limited. For the people there migration can be an adaptation strategy. If migration is planned with an eye to the future and using safe routes, new opportunities are opened up not just for the migrants themselves. It can also make a positive contribution to all aspects of economic, ecological and social development in the countries of origin and in host regions.

Climate change is affecting different genders in different ways. That is why it is important to take a gender-responsive approach when dealing with climate migration.

Human mobility in the context of climate change is a cross-cutting issue in German development cooperation. It provides a number of starting points and working areas.

German activities

Strengthening cities as the main destination of climate migration flows

Apartment complex in Tirana, Albania

Cities in the Global South often have very limited scope to respond adequately to extreme weather events and invest in preventive, climate-smart urban development. In addition, climate change is further increasing existing urbanisation trends worldwide. Many migrants move from rural areas into cities where many have no alternative but to make their homes in informal settlements. This makes them more vulnerable to climate risks because these settlements usually do not have any climate-resilient infrastructure.

That is why the BMZ promotes innovative strategies on urban planning, which take into account both current and expected migration scenarios and climate risks and also involve migrant groups in planning processes.

Cooperation in practice

Two workers at a construction site on the banks of the Mayur River in Khulna town working on a bank stabilisation.

Bangladesh New prospects in Khulna Internal link

Bangladesh is struggling to cope with the effects of climate change. Large parts of the country are situated in the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta, the world’s biggest river delta. One fifth of the country could be left permanently under water as sea levels rise.

Coastal section of a Fiji Island

The Pacific Islands Planned relocation Internal link

The Pacific island states are particularly vulnerable to the negative consequences of climate change. Whilst they themselves contribute only marginally to global warming, their geography means that they suffer disproportionately from its negative impacts.

View of the Caribbean island St. Lucia: left the Atlantic Ocean, right the Caribbean Sea

The eastern Caribbean Campaign to raise awareness of climate risks in St. Lucia Internal link

The eastern Caribbean is repeatedly hit by disasters. That is why the German government is supporting awareness-raising campaigns, so that the local people can consciously minimise their risks.

Background facts International processes

When it comes to migration and displacement in the context of climate change, politics, the private sector, academia and society need to work together to develop coping strategies. Cooperation at the international level is important, too. Climate change is a global phenomenon and it is becoming more and more clear that it is resulting in migration and displacement worldwide.

That is why Germany is supporting relevant international processes.

At the climate conference in Paris in 2015, Germany called for a working group to be set up on climate change-induced displacement and migration. The task force took up its work in early 2017 and presented its recommendations at the climate conference in Katowice, Poland at the end of 2018. In its Plan of Action (External link) the Task Force on Displacement (External link) sets out a number of activities for compiling and making use of collective experience and knowledge. It publishes periodic status reports with information on its ongoing activities.

The BMZ works to facilitate the implementation of the Sendai-Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (External link) of the United Nations both at policy-making level and through concrete development cooperation projects. The aim of the Framework is to avert disasters and minimise existing disaster risks and provide post-disaster recovery support.

The BMZ is also represented in the advisory body of the World Bank’s Global Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR (External link)). The partnership programme supports low and middle income countries in their efforts to analyse and lessen their risks from natural disasters and climate change. The BMZ is contributing financially to the GFDRR’s trust fund and to other climate risk initiatives (for instance, the Climate Risk & Early Warning Systems (External link) initiative).

In close cooperation with the Vulnerable Twenty (External link) (V20) group of the most vulnerable developing countries the G7 is setting up a Global Shield against Climate Risks. It is to provide quicker and more effective protection against the financial implications of climate risks such as extreme weather events for people and countries that are especially vulnerable and affected by poverty.

The BMZ supports the proposals made in the Protection Agenda endorsed by the Nansen Initiative in October 2015. The initiative was launched with the goal of providing better protection for people forced to migrate because of natural disasters.

The Protection Agenda comprises the following objectives:

  • improved management of displacement risks in affected countries,
  • improved humanitarian protection for cross-border migration and
  • improved data and knowledge base.

A Platform on Disaster Displacement (External link) was set up to help implement the Protection Agenda. Germany presided over the Platform until the end of 2017 and, since then, has been a proactive member and important supporter.

Germany was actively involved in the negotiations for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM (External link)) and fosters the implementation of the Compact. Recommendations made by the Compact include better analyses and exchange formats with regard to mobility patterns resulting from climate-related extreme weather events and slow-onset environmental changes. The aim is to develop effective adaptation and resilience strategies, in particular for the countries of origin of the migrants.

On top of that the GCM is aimed at drawing up strategies at both the regional and the international level to effectively address the challenges of migration and displacement in the context of climate change.

In 2019, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres launched the High-level Panel on Internal Displacement (External link). It has drawn up concrete recommendations on how to better prevent and respond to internal displacement. Together with the Federal Foreign Office the BMZ is supporting the implementation of the recommendations (External link) of the expert group and the Action Agenda on Internal Displacement.

The final report of the panel (External link) explicitly includes internally displaced persons who have had to flee the consequences of climate change. It makes the case for shifting priorities from humanitarian to development-oriented approaches, for instance through climate change mitigation and adaptation measures and targeted support for projects that increase people’s resilience.

The UN Secretary-General has published an Action Agenda for Internal Displacement (External link) that builds on the recommendations made by the panel. In this document, the United Nations commit, for example, to reducing the risks of displacement caused by climate change and natural disasters.


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As at: 13/07/2023