While the SDGs do not explicitly link climate change and migration, SDG Objective 10.7 calls on signatories to “facilitate orderly, safe and responsible migration of people, including through the implementation of well-managed and planned strategies.” Again, the United States should channel multilateral development assistance to support this goal. Rising seas, changing weather conditions and increasing the frequency and intensity of weather will be commonplace in the second half of the 21st century. In fact, some commentators have argued that the Syrian refugee crisis is due, at least in part, to climate change. As the widely celebrated Paris Agreement came into force recently, many suggested that negotiators had failed to go far enough to protect people displaced by climate change. While the text of the agreement did not directly address climate-related migration, the negotiations leading up to the Paris Agreement provided an illuminating window on perhaps the most promising solution ever found. If we rely on the UNITED Nations climate governance machine to deal with these things, only their very political nature is hidden and will lead to bad policy. To make a provocative comparison, could we expect the UNFCCC to “solve poverty”? The negotiations leading up to COP21 in Paris were followed by discussions on a new body under the UNFCCC system: an ease of coordination for the coordination of climate change. This makes intuitive sense at first. The UNFCCC is the framework convention that addresses greenhouse gas emissions and many other climate issues (starting with the Kyoto Protocol and now the Paris Agreement). So far, UNHCR has refused to grant refugee status to these people, calling them “environmental migrants”, largely because it cannot afford to meet their needs. But without organized efforts to monitor migrants, these desperate individuals go where they can, not necessarily where they should. As the number increases, it becomes increasingly difficult for the international community to ignore this challenge.
As severe climate change is driving more people away, the international community could be forced to either redefine “refugees” to include climate migrants, or create a new legal category and an institutional framework to support the protection of climate migrants. However, it would be difficult to open this debate in the current political context. At present, the nationalist, anti-immigration and xenophobic atmosphere in Europe and the United States would most likely lead to a reduction in refugee protection rather than an extension. That is what you think, at least if you judge the way the media is talking about the overlap between climate change and migration.