Climate crisis & displacement: one publication's contribution to the debate

Published 27 October 2021 / By Marion Couldrey

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As we watch to see whether COP26 will see governments around the world stepping up to the table with the far-reaching commitments that are so urgently needed, here at Forced Migration Review we are deep into reviewing articles submitted for our March 2022 issue on ‘Climate crisis and displacement: from commitment to action’.

Forced Migration Review (FMR) is the in-house publication of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford – an online and print magazine that has been publishing articles covering refugees, internal displacement and statelessness since 1987. The March 2022 issue continues our engagement with the subjects of climate change and displacement, which were also explored in issues published in 2008, 2015 and 2020.

So much has changed since we published the 2008 issue. Even only 13 years ago, climate change (and its impacts on people’s mobility) was not the globally acknowledged issue that it is now. And we didn’t know then just how severe those impacts would become, and how fast they would manifest themselves.

That first issue brought together climate scientists and migration researchers for the first time in the same publication. Demand for the issue was huge (including for use in earlier COP negotiations), perhaps reflecting its relative novelty. For the 2015 issue, we focused more narrowly on disasters associated with climate change, and then in our 2020 issue we focused on the impact on local communities, and their response. For this COP, real efforts have been made by so many to try to ensure that the voices of those most affected will be heard – although the impact of the pandemic and the pitiful shortage of affordable accommodation in Glasgow are sadly making this far more difficult to achieve.

Why this topic at this time?

We all agree that the impacts of climate change are clear, and there is no need to debate whether we should act – we know we have to, and fast. But what actually works? This next issue of FMR will show-case lessons learned since we first published on this topic, and will urge all actors to move from high-level commitment to concrete action.

In 2022 we will be halfway through the period set for achieving the objectives of the SDGs and the Sendai Framework. Meanwhile, key commitments under the Paris Agreement should – in theory at least – be on their way to being met. 2022 will also be the year when the first International Migration Review Forum will share progress on the implementation of the Global Compact for Migration. Given these milestone dates, and their relevance to the climate crisis and displacement, it seemed timely, and necessary, to revisit this topic.

We want to look at what has been learned since the Paris Agreement, SDGs, Nansen Initiative Protection Agenda and Sendai Framework were drafted – and whatever emerges from COP26 will give us all food for thought. And we want to show which policies and practices have had a concrete and positive effect, and how these could be replicated or adapted for other contexts. We want this issue to be a practical resource to support planning around the world.

We’re keen that this issue of FMR should focus on moving beyond discussing the impacts of climate change, beyond the reasons why action is needed, and beyond the commitments that so many governments and other actors have made but not necessarily implemented. We have invited authors – including governments, displaced people, policymakers, practitioners and researchers – to explore approaches and present case-studies that will promote and facilitate concrete policymaking and practice. The fact that we publish in English, Arabic, French and Spanish – and accept article submissions in those languages - broadens our reach and accessibility to a global readership.

Zero emissions, zero excuses

We also want this issue to have a strong focus on the perspectives of communities and countries affected most directly by the impacts of climate change. They have practical experience of dealing with climate change – with working on adaptation and mitigation, relocation and disaster risk reduction, and they know what works and what does not work. This experience needs to be recognised, shared and drawn on.

We are delighted that the Foreword will be written by Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, who speaks passionately about the impact of climate change on his country and the responsibility of richer nations to take urgent action: “We are demanding net zero emissions and accepting zero excuses.”

A version of this blog was first published by the Platform on Disaster Displacement, with whom we are collaborating on our March 2022 issue.

Marion Couldrey is Co-Editor of Forced Migration Review, based at Oxford Department of International Development.

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