COP28: Focus on labour migration and climate change

Article | Dubai | 29 November 2023
People have always moved, internally or internationally, because of changing environmental conditions and disasters due to natural hazards. Among the profound and multiple socio-economic consequences of climate change, human mobility is potentially one of the most far reaching and severe.

Without proactive policies to link climate change response, human mobility and employment, labour markets can be negatively impacted, and workers face decent work deficits. Countries of origin can experience labour shortages in key sectors such as in agri-food systems. They also face the risk of a green ‘brain drain’ resulting from the emigration of people with key skills needed for just transitions to environmentally sustainable economies. In areas of destination, those who migrated or who were displaced or relocated might face barriers to finding decent work commensurate with their skills and aspirations, resulting to labour market mismatches.

With proper governance, labour migration and mobility in the context of climate change also presents opportunities and can serve as an important adaptive mechanism. Countries of destination can benefit from new skills, which can also contribute to their own climate mitigation and adaptation plans. At the same time, migrants and displaced communities can transfer back the experience, knowledge, and resources gained to build resilience back home and support just transitions.

Further exploring these interactions, below are the key events organised at the COP 28 in Dubai by the ILO Labour Migration Branch, in collaboration with the UN Network on Migration, the Task Force on Disaster Displacement and the Pacific Climate Change Migration and Human Security programme.

What’s next for the Pacific Regional Framework for Climate Mobility?

Organised by the ILO, IOM, OHCHR, ESCAP Platform on Disaster Displacement, and Pacific Island Forum Secretariat – 1 December (14:00-14:50 UTC+4), Moana Pacific Pavilion

In the Pacific, one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change, both slow and sudden climate impacts continue to cause serious socio-economic, cultural, and environmental loss and damage. As a result, the region expects increased challenges emerging from climate mobility, demanding a coordinated regional response.

Against this backdrop, Pacific Governments recently endorsed a Regional Framework on Climate Mobility at the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders' Meeting in November 2023. One of its unique aspects is that the framework is upfront in recognizing the right of our Pacific people to stay in their homes as a fundamental priority. It aims to guide governments in addressing specific legal, policy and practical issues that will arise from increased climate mobility in the following areas: staying in place, displacement, migration, planned relocations and stranded migrants. The framework is the result of two years of work, led by the Joint-Working Group on Climate Mobility, co-chaired by the Government of Tuvalu and Government of Fiji, and supported by a regional programme on Pacific Climate Change Migration and Human Security.

The side event will provide a space for Pacific perspectives and lived experiences to be shared. Specifically, the side event will showcase the process to arrive at the Pacific Regional Framework on Climate Mobility and will identify opportunities for implementation under the purview of ambitious regional and national climate action plans. It will also be an opportunity to share lessons learned and approaches for empowering civil society and communities to actively engage in managing climate mobility, which may be replicated in other regions.

The labour dimensions of climate change and human mobility in a just transition

Organised by the ILO Labour Migration branch – 4 December (14:00-15:30 UTC+4), Just Transition Pavilion

Human mobility induced by climate change increases vulnerability without protection safeguards. Yet the development of policies supporting just transitions to environmentally sustainable and climate-resilient green economies, can foster climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies that create new decent jobs for migrants’ communities of origin and destination.

With this in mind, the 2023 Resolution and conclusions concerning a just transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all recognise the linkages between just transition and labour mobility, especially for least developed and small island States.

This tripartite panel will discuss how fair labour migration frameworks can facilitate just transitions, enabling migrant workers to migrate under conditions of fair recruitment and decent work to green jobs, and to develop and transfer skills to countries of origin. Participants will discuss how regional policies and strategies can help overcome decent work deficits and ensure countries of origin of benefit from skilled workers’ contributions to their own transition processes.

Creating synergies between the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the Global Compact for Migration

Organised by the UN Network on Migration and the Task Force on Displacement – 9 December (10:30-11:30 UTC+4), Climate Mobility Pavilion

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognized in 2022 that meeting the objectives of the Global Compact on Safe, Regular Orderly Migration (GCM) would facilitate climate-resilient development pathways that can improve migration as an adaptation strategy. This event will bring the voices of various stakeholders to discuss the different ways in which the implementation of the GCM could be better aligned to that of the commitments and climate targets made under the Paris Agreement.

The aim is to discuss and better understand how climate action can support the implementation of the commitments made by States in the Global Compact for Migration. It will explore how coherent rights-based and gender responsive policies and programmes could form an integrated response to addressing both climate change and human mobility. It will also highlight the need for a whole-of-government approach and at the same time, the importance of a whole-of-society approach involving civil society, employers’ and workers’ organizations, migrants, host communities and the youth, among others.

This panel discussion is organized under the UN Network on Migration’s workstream on climate change.