150 people attended the side event on climate migration at the UN climate summit in Paris on December 1st, that visiting professor Angela Oels organised. Lund University (LUCSUS and Department of Political Science) was hosting the side event in collaboration with Lancaster and Hamburg University. The panel had one clear message: There is no simple link between climate change and migration. Therefore, it is better to speak of a potential relationship between climate and migration and not of a causation. Many of the ways in which the issue has been articulated are highly problematic. We should neither fear millions of climate refugees, nor is refugee status the answer to the problem. Even more problematic is the idea, that migration is simply a “rational strategy of adaptation”. This discourse naturalizes the losses of livelihoods as inevitable and ignores that a lot of the projected migration could still be prevented.
There was half an hour of open discussion with the audience, in which a number of really interesting questions were raised. A person in the audience from Bangladesh highlighted that migration in his country happens where adaptation failed. So he could not agree that migration should be counted as adaptation. People wanted to know what the panel thought about claims that all Syrians were climate refugees and the panel responded that they were very skeptical about such claims. The panel concluded that climate change and migration is not an issue that the UNFCCC should be expected to “manage”. Instead, a lot more fundamental questions need to be discussed like “What kind of migration do we want in the future?”. There should be less sorting between “good” and “bad” refugees, they are all humans in the end. Andrew Baldwin emphasized that future research needs to make sure it is not only policy relevant but most of all politically relevant.
Watch a short (5 minutes) move with highlights from the panel here: