Between 1998 and 2020, climatic and geophysical phenomena caused 312,000 deaths and directly affected more than 277 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to the report on the state of the climate of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The impacts of global warming are not only visible in the future, but also in the present, and are also multiplied by the characteristics of the region. In the words of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this situation is amplified by inequality, poverty, population growth, the occupation of high-risk places and high density, as well as, in some cases, the lack of a sustainable planning of the exploitation of natural resources.
Climate change has a clear influence on human mobility in the region, particularly within country borders. In 2021 alone, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center recorded more than 1.6 million new trips by disasters in the Americas, a figure that rose to 4.5 million in 2020. By 2050, the World Bank estimates 17 million the potential number of climate migrants in Latin America if the most pessimistic scenarios hold.
By 2050, the World Bank estimates the potential number of climate migrants in Latin America at 17 million, according to the most pessimistic scenarios
The Climate Week in Latin America and the Caribbeanorganized by UN Climate Change in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) from July 18 to 22, 2022, represents an ideal occasion to assess the progress made in the region in terms of mitigation and adaptation to global warming. Although the proposals exist, the concrete results are limited, and more efforts are needed to ensure a successful transition towards greener, more resilient and sustainable economies that protect the most vulnerable populations.
More than an event on climate change
Climate Week, in addition to an event on climate change, must be a meeting on the societies of the region, on how they face increasingly complex situations and on how the international community must support them in this task. Among the technicality of the debates, the need to highlight the human face of the phenomenon stands out: that of the people and communities that suffer the onslaught of increasingly severe threats that affect the means and living conditions throughout the region width.
Many of these people resort to migration as a response mechanism to disasters, environmental degradation, loss of livelihoods and the adverse impacts of climate change.
The massive displacements registered in Peru in 2017 caused by El Niño, the mobility of Amazonian communities that face increasingly devastating fires, the persistent drought in the central zone of Chile, the floods that affected the Brazilian northeast at the end of 2021 or the need of relocating coastal populations affected by sea level rise are some of the examples that reflect societies on the move in contexts of environmental threats.
Migration is not only a result of the lack of adaptation to these situations. It also contributes to the development and resilience of communities of origin and destination. Efforts to prevent forced migration must be complemented by the development of safe and regular migration routes for people affected by sudden and gradual disasters, as recommended by the Pact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the main global agreement on migration.
South America represents a space for innovation in the search for solutions to these complex issues. The countries of the region have advanced in innovative strategies to address the impacts of climate change on human mobility. From the development of action plans and national alignments on climate migration, to the relocation of populations in risk areas, through the creation of humanitarian visas for victims of disasters.
We cannot, however, cease in the ambition to strengthen the work with the most vulnerable communities and people on the move to advance in actions that ensure their protection from the perspective of Human Rights, the alignments of the Global Compact for Migration and in support of the realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For this work, the coordination between the different actors, the exchange of experiences and the support of the international community is essential. From the International Organization for Migration we have pointed out that climate negotiations are a fundamental space for discussion to integrate the migration issue, under the premise that it is not possible to undertake climate action without addressing the consequences of global warming on human mobility.
Climate action cannot be taken without addressing the consequences of global warming on human mobility
Both in Climate Week and in the preparations for the 27th edition of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) which will meet in Egypt in November 2022, it is crucial to integrate the perspectives of migrant populations, their needs and their capacities.
Climatic migrations in South America are as varied as the circumstances in which they occur: populations from the Caribbean, the Andes, the Amazon or the Chaco do not migrate in the same way. All these movements remind us that urgent action is required to improve policies and with greater ambition and forcefulness to face the consequences of climate change.
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