SPECIAL COP21: What role for climate migrants in the Paris Agreement?


Despite being among the hottest issues to be debated in side events, climate migrations have hardly peeked out during last week of negotiations. This apparent silence is mainly due to the connection of climate migration with the Loss & Damage discourse, one of the most contentious matters under the UNFCCC process.

Consistently with the previous negotiation rounds, in the draft text of the agreement and accompanying decisions released on Saturday (Dec. 5), migration and L&D are inextricably linked together. This connection is central to the G77 proposal for Article 5 on L&D, which advances the establishment of a “climate change displacement coordination facility to help coordinate efforts to address the displacement of people as a result of extreme impacts of climate change”. The latest version of the Draft Paris Outcome released on Wednesday (Dec. 9) still reported the whole Article 5 in square brackets, as sign that no agreement has been reached on the issue yet, and envisioned the establishement of the climate change displacement coordination facility “to help coordinate efforts to address climate change induced displacement, migration and planned relocation“.

The related draft COP decisions further specify the facility’s mandate, consisting in “developing arrangements for emergency relief” and “providing organized migration and planned relocation”. Back in February, the first draft of the Paris negotiating text included a third function, namely to “undertake compensation measures for people displaced by climate change”.

Although references to compensation were dropped in subsequent negotiating texts, developed countries’ position on the issue has remained quite tepid.

For the time being, debate around the functions and operational implications of the G77 proposal is scant.

The actual scope of the facility remains undetermined, due to the breadth of the language employed and the ongoing challenges in outlining the causal relationship between climate change and the migratory phenomena. With the proposed options being still in brackets, the next days will be crucial to understand how (and ultimately if) climate migration and displacement will be included in the final agreement.


Written by Elisa Calliari in Paris, France. In collaboration with Agenzia di Stampa Giovanile sulla Cooperazione allo Sviluppo, Sostenibilità Ambientale e Cambiamenti Climatici (Youth Press Agency on Climate Change, Development Cooperation and Sustainable Development).

[Image: Displaced Sudanese Face Harsh Environment. Photo credit: United Nations Photo on Flickr]