Environmental change and migration

Climate change can greatly increase international migration by increasing the frequency and intensity of droughts, floods and other natural calamities. Climate change could lead to significant shifts in populations fleeing inhospitable or uninhabitable areas or searching for opportunities where agricultural productivity may be more viable and productive. The Global Compact for Migration (GCM) recognizes environmental changes, environmental conditions and deteriorations as some of the main drivers and structural factors that cause people to seek a livelihood elsewhere through irregular migration or forced displacement. In addition, the Global Compact on Refugees recognizes that climate, environmental degradation and natural disasters increasingly interact with the drivers of refugee movements. One of the main objectives of the GCM is to minimize the adverse drivers and structural factors that compel people to leave their country or community of origin, and natural disasters, the adverse effects of climate change and environmental degradation are among these factors.

KNOMAD’s work on this theme has been of interest to the international community as is evident from the participation in its numerous events, as well as from the requests for support from the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change. Its analytical agenda expanded the evidence base and the understanding of the vulnerability and resiliency of people to adverse climatic developments. During the first phase of KNOMAD, this thematic working group engaged in a number of activities with the objectives of (i) improving data on research on climate driven migration, integrating mobility patterns into climate change adaptation and resilience planning and migration policy development, understanding policy implications of resilience and vulnerability, and planned relocation in context of natural disasters and climate change. The TWG has published several working papers and policy briefs and organized several workshops that involved policy makers, research institutions,UN agencies and other development partners, civil societies, etc. 

The studies sponsored in this area addressed policy issues and institutional arrangements appropriate to the circumstances, as illustrated by its “Guidance on Planned Relocation” which has been widely accepted. The recommendations on climate change contributed to the provisions on climate-related displacement in the Paris Agreements of the UNFCCC in October 2016. The TWG also contributed greatly to the work on climate change and migration in the World Bank, including through its work on the flagship report entitled Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration. 
The objective of this TWG under KNOMAD 1.2 is to develop sustainable policies and tools to integrate mobility into adaptation and climate resilience planning to address migration, displacement, and planned relocation due to environmental change.

Areas of Focus

The interconnections between environmental change, resilience and migration are the principal focus. More specifically, this TWG intends to pursue the following activities:

  • Improving knowledge and data to better map, understand, predict, and address climate driven migration such as those resulting from sudden-onset and slow-onset natural events, the adverse effects of climate change, or environmental degradation. This includes conducting pilot studies in areas where climate driven migration and conflicts due to natural resource degradation and management have become major concerns.
  • Developing adaptation and resilience strategies to sudden-onsets and slow-onset climate events. This includes a) improving and implementing the planned relocation tool kits that were developed in the first phase of KNOMAD;b) integrating mobility considerations into adaptation and climate resilience planning to encourage more effective strategies to be developed to address migration, displacement and planned relocation; c) understanding the role of resilience and vulnerability as determinants of environmentally-induced mobility and as factors affecting the success of adaptation and climate resilience strategies.
  • Develop coherent approaches to address climate driven migration in the context of slow-onsets and sudden-onset natural disasters.
Alex Aleinikoff
Director, Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, The New School


Kanta Kumari Rigaud
World Bank


Sonia Plaza
World Bank

Focal Point


May 2-3, 2018, San José, Costa Rica

Panel Discussion

April 11, 2018, Washington DC


January 12, 2016, Washington DC

Call For Papers

May 29, 2015, Washington DC


March 19-20, 2015, Washington DC

Call For Papers

March 10, 2015, Washington DC


December 18, 2013, Washington DC

Working paper

David Cantor and Beatriz Eugenia Sánchez-Mojica

March 2023

Policy brief

Susan Martin, Elizabeth Ferris, Kanta Kumari and Jonas Bergmann

July 2018

Policy brief

Jonas Bergmann and Susan F. Martin

January 2018

Working paper

Soumyadeep Banerjee, Dominic Kniveton, Richard Black, Suman Bisht

January 2017

Working paper

Robert Stojanov, Barbora Duží, Daniel Němec

April 2017

Working paper

Caroline Zickgraf, Sara Vigil, Florence de Longueville, Pierre Ozer, François Gemenne

April 2016