Rising sea levels and droughts associated with climate change threaten to force vast shifts of populations, yet states have so far been slow to react, the Global Migration Group (GMG) warned Thursday.
The body, made up of 14 United Nations agencies, the World Bank and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said urgent action was needed to deal with potentially major population movements resulting from changes to the global climate.
Rising sea levels could lead to a loss of territory on small island countries and droughts and desertification would likely force large numbers on the move.
“While there is mounting evidence that climate change has the potential to contribute to substantial movements of people, the response of the international community has so far been limited at best,” said a GMG statement.
“The GMG calls on the international community to recognize that migration and displacement induced by environmental degradation and climate change require urgent action.”
The statement was adopted by the group following a meeting in Paris on November 15 and presented on Thursday in Geneva, currently hosting the fifth Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD).
The GMG urged states to adopt “human rights and human development-oriented” measures to improve the lives of those exposed to the effects of climate change and increase their resilience to it.
“In the long term, states may wish to review existing legal instruments and policy framework to identify possible new solutions to the situation of those who move in relation to climate change,” the group said.
Among its recommendations the GMG suggested immigration policy could take into account environmental factors.