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///   Towards a legal status for "climatic migrants" in the Mediterranean?

by Kheireddine Batache on
The migration issue is one of the greatest phenomenon led by climate change in the Mediterranean. Environmental factors have indeed a serious impact on the global movement of people. But how is climate change driving migration?

Environmental migrations are mainly presented as a new phenomenon that would be dictating future socioeconomic challenges. Historically, people used to leave places with harsh or deteriorating conditions of living. As a result of accelerated climate change, massive flows, both internal and cross-border, are still a relevant issue and rising.

But how to determine the way that environmental migration will be affecting ecosystems in the hosting regions? According to the International Organization fo Migration (IOM), migration often seems to be misperceived as a failure to adapt to a changing environment.  Instead, it can also be an adaptation strategy to climate and environmental change and is an essential component of the socio-environmental interactions that needs to be managed.

As part of its growing commitment to engage in debate towards a new political approach of the climate change issue, FEMISE (Euro-Mediterranean Forum of Institutes of Economic Sciences) issued an interview of policy researcher Simona Ramos, from Aix-Marseille University and Institut de la Méditerranée  (France), in the framework of its new series of " Med Change Makers " interviews.

Migration climatique

Simona Ramos offers avenues for political reflection to deal with the continuing effects of climate-induced migration.

1. Regarding implementation efforts of the Paris Agreement which country/countries in the South Med region are examples to follow and why?

Countries in the South Med region do differ in their progress towards the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Morocco and Israel are considerably ahead in terms of policies and actions. At the core of Morocco’s current emissions reduction efforts stands the National Energy Strategy, which aims to extend the share of renewable electricity capacity to 42% by 2020 and to 52% by 2030. Morocco has demonstrated policy-in-action, with massive investment on solar energy debuting with the construction of the giant Noor solar complex (using concentrated solar power) near Ouarzazate.

On the other hand, Algeria, Tunisia and Palestine, seem to be willing to take more valiant measures for mitigation and adaptation to climate change although they also face serious constraints. For example, in terms of legislation, Tunisia became one of the few countries to recognize climate change in its Constitution, even though climate related policies in the country have still a long way to improve.

2. You suggest that there has not been enough cooperation among South-South countries. Why is this so important and what are your suggestions in this regard?

Indeed, one of the key problems that South Med countries are facing is the lack of mutual collaboration in the implementation of their climate-based policies. A solid South‐South collaboration could foster significant improvement in the implementation of South Med policy implementation in terms of climate change. Cooperation can assist in mutual capacity building in the realm of research and development.

Also, technological and know-how transfer can be fostered through Legislative and Institutional frameworks (ex. by developing technology transfer frameworks and enabling environments to integrate technology transfer policies at the national levels). The potential of South-South cooperation is vast and as such should be seriously taken into consideration.

Simona Ramos

Simona RAMOS, Aix-Marseille Université (France), Institut de la Méditerranée and FEMISE.

3. How do climate processes affect human migration? Has anything been done at the national policy level in this regard within SMCs?

Climate processes seriously affect human migration. Nevertheless, it can be argued that this topic doesn’t receive proper attention as contrary to climatic events, climatic processes occur in a gradual and cumulative way, and as such establishing a strict causal relation is difficult. Nevertheless, the effect of climate change on populations can operate in multiple ways. Water, food and land availability can be seriously affected and populations can be forced to migrate from affected areas.

The South Med region has been among the most climatically affected regions worldwide, with sea level rise and desertification occurring on an ongoing basis. With regards to policy, what has been done so far has to do more with adaptation and mitigation measures (often as part of countries’ NDCs or NCs). Nevertheless, it can be argued that these measures do not necessarily tackle and/or fully address climate induced (forced) human migration.

4. You state that current policy measures fail to fully address the ongoing effects of climate induced migration. Why and what are your policy suggestions to address the ongoing effects of climate induced migration in the South Mediterranean countries?

Although it can be strongly argued that current policy measures and climate based strategies are crucial with regards to climate change improvement, they are not expected to fully address the spectrum of climate change consequences, such as the one of “climatic processes-induced migration”.

This is due to several reasons. Mitigation, adaptation as well as capacity building and technology transfer strategies take time to be implemented, which means that the millions of presently affected people are not likely to immediately benefit from these measures. Also, in order for these strategies to be effective, a global consensus is needed. Unfortunately, this is not always the case as recent history has shown.

One of the policy recommendations in this regard would be to incorporate climate-induced migration under the international legal framework, as an adaptation strategy rather than as a failure to adapt. In this case, having a legal status for ‘climatic migrants” would properly address and protect people crossing bothers. Other suggestions include using “planned re-alocation”, an approach that has often been incorporated in cases of natural disasters. Many have favored this approach because it usually takes place within the borders of the country, allowing for higher flexibility and avoiding the complexity of requiring international agreements.

Tsunami

5. How can re-allocation measures be used to address people affected by climate induced migration?

Planned re-allocation strategies can be complex and difficult to implement especially if a country lacks institutional, technological and financial capacity.

• At first, there should be an early identification of populations exposed to disasters and other impacts of climate change or affected by mitigation and adaptation projects associated with climate change. A National Mapping of such populations needs to be systematized and publicly shared to maximize awareness-raising.

• Planning for relocation should be integrated within the national strategies and requires the creation of an enabling environment, including a legal basis for undertaking planned relocation, capacity-building, institutionalization, and a whole-of-government approach.

• The sustainability of planned relocation should be assured through adequate attention to site selection, livelihoods, integration (identity and culture), and host communities, among other factors.

• Independent, short and long-term, quantitative and qualitative monitoring and evaluation systems should be created to assess the impacts and outcomes of planned relocation.

6. What is the Green Wall Project and what are its implications and potential for South Mediterranean countries?

Planned relocation should be an option of last resort as it is a complex and expensive process. It is necessary to enable improvement in the living conditions of areas affected by climate change. One of the most prominent projects in this regard is the Great Green Wall, an African led initiative to green the desert (by growing more plants and trees) with a goal of providing food, jobs and a future for millions of people who live in regions that are affected by climate change.

The inability to make a living from the land can be an important push factor for migration. Greening areas that are currently scarcely populated and not able to fully sustain human necessities could bring multiple benefits as i. people already living in those areas wouldn’t be forced to move and ii. these areas could also serve as potential place for reallocation for people in neighboring affected zones. Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia are already partners within this project and could serve as an example to other SMCs.

Interviewed by Constantin Tsakas.

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