Migration and Global Environmental Change: Future Challenges and Opportunities

from Government of the United Kingdom
Published on 20 Oct 2011 View Original

Executive Summary

Key conclusions

This report considers migration in the context of environmental change over the next 50 years.

The scope of this report is international: it examines global migration trends, but also internal migration trends particularly within low-income countries, which are often more important in this context.
The report has the following key conclusions:

  • Environmental change will affect migration now and in the future, specifically through its influence on a range of economic, social and political drivers which themselves affect migration. However, the range and complexity of the interactions between these drivers means that it will rarely be possible to distinguish individuals for whom environmental factors are the sole driver (‘environmental migrants’). Nonetheless there are potentially grave implications of future environmental change for migration, for individuals and policy makers alike, requiring a strategic approach to policy which acknowledges the opportunities provided by migration in certain situations.

  • Powerful economic, political and social drivers mean that migration is likely to continue regardless of environmental change. People are as likely to migrate to places of environmental vulnerability as from these places. For example, compared to 2000, there may be between 114 and 192 million additional people living in floodplains in urban areas in Africa and Asia by 2060, in alternative scenarios of the future. This will pose a range of challenges to policy makers.

  • Consequently, in the decades ahead, millions of people will be unable to move away from locations in which they are extremely vulnerable to environmental change. To the international community, this ‘trapped’ population is likely to represent just as important a policy concern as those who do migrate. Planned and well-managed migration can be one important solution for this population of concern.

  • Preventing or constraining migration is not a ‘no risk’ option. Doing so will lead to increased impoverishment, displacement and irregular migration in many settings, particularly in low elevation coastal zones, drylands and mountain regions. Conversely, some degree of planned and proactive migration of individuals or groups may ultimately allow households and populations to remain in situ for longer.