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G20 Policy Brief on Climate and Displacement


Syrian refugee center, Turkish border (3 August 2012)

By Shiloh Fetzek, Senior Fellow for International Affairs

The Center for Climate and Security recently contributed to and co-signed a policy brief for the G20 on ‘Building Global Governance for ‘Climate Refugees’’. The brief was produced as a part of the Think20 (T20) dialogue process leading up to the G20 Summit in Hamburg on 7-8 July. The T20 is a network of think tanks that act as a research and policy advice network for the G20; its Think 20 Summit – GLOBAL SOLUTIONS will be hosted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on 29-30 May, one of several civil society dialogue forums leading up to the G20 Summit.

The policy brief’s key findings include:

  • Forced displacement due to climate change will increase – both within states and across borders.
  • While most cases of population displacement triggered by extreme weather events are currently of limited duration and involve people moving only short distances within national borders, this pattern is beginning to shift.
  • Impacts of climate change can overwhelm seemingly stable and resilient communities and even exacerbate conditions that increase the likelihood of state failure, conflict and therefore flight.
  • The G20 needs to prepare global institutions and mechanisms to cope with increasing flows and waves of climate-induced migration.
  • An effective response requires specific policies and international cooperation to assist, protect and provide durable solutions for those displaced by climate change, manage climate risks for those remaining and support opportunities for voluntary migrants adapting to climate change.
  • Migration and refugees are an issue of heightened domestic policy concern in many countries, but one that needs to be addressed in relation to neighbouring regions.
  • The G20 should establish a process of continuous communication, policy coordination, and reflection on climate-induced forced displacement, and review progress at its annual G20 Summits.

This brief, as well as other policy proposals developed by the T20, will be housed on the recently established G20 Insights Platform, to support G20 decision-makers and other stakeholders on key components of the G20 work agenda.

The report also quotes The Center for Climate Security’s ‘A short note on migration and security in a changing climate’:

Looking at the world today, we can see strong signals of what the future may bring: unprecedented climate risks and natural resource stress, continuing refugee crises, and responses from governments ranging from welcoming with open arms to watching as the most vulnerable perish. Long-simmering and emerging conflicts will not be solved overnight. Stresses on water and food, and the inability of governments to provide these basic resources for their citizens, are not going to go away. The growing and multi-faceted push and pull drivers of migration are not going away either.  These challenges we can foresee. But with foresight comes a “responsibility to prepare,” and to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values.

The difference between today and tomorrow rests in what we as nations choose to do in the face of these challenges. Do we choose humanitarian responses that truly enhance our security or do we choose to artificially isolate ourselves?

For millennia and for many today, mobility is security.  Governments will need to recognize that reality and start developing both preventive solutions and ameliorative responses that enhance human security, and, in so doing, bolster security worldwide.

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