Cities are on the frontline of climate-driven migration

Whether cities are the origin, transit point or destination for those displaced by the climate crisis, cities will face increasing pressure on their infrastructure, services and socio-economic capacity because of climate impacts and related migration. Displaced people and migrants positively contribute to thriving cities, but if climate migration is not acknowledged and effectively managed, such movements could affect cities’ ability to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and achieve a green and just recovery.

Mayors and local leaders play a critical role in addressing these challenges. The action taken by city leaders to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis can facilitate the integration and inclusion of migrants and displaced people in cities, but inaction could further entrench displaced peoples’ vulnerabilities and increase their exposure to inequality and climate risks. City leaders have a duty to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those who are migrating and that all urban policies, including environmental ones, are inclusive of migrants and do not exacerbate existing discrimination.

30 million people were displaced due to climate disasters in 2020
70 % of internally displaced people live in urban areas
216 million people may be displaced by 2050 due to climate breakdown
Sources: 1.; 2.; 3.

Mayors are accelerating the global response to the climate crisis and climate migration

The C40-MMC Global Mayors Task Force on Climate and Migration, launched in June 2021, brings together leading mayors from around the world to accelerate local, national and international responses to the intersectional challenges of climate and migration in cities. The Task Force unites mayors from different urban global contexts: Amman, Bristol, Dhaka North, Freetown, London, Milan, and São Paulo, under the co-leadership of the Mayor of Freetown, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, and the Mayor of Dhaka North, Mohammed Atiqul Islam.

Task Force mayors are motivated by the various challenges their cities face. Some have faced the realities of climate displacement into and within their cities. Others have experienced large movements of people that were not driven by climate factors and hold valuable lessons for approaching a future of greater human mobility.

Task Force mayors are focused on making their city’s green transition just and inclusive, using climate action to advance the social and economic inclusion of migrants and other marginalised communities.

All cities are encouraged to join the Task Force. To get involved, please contact:

Setting the global agenda on climate migration in cities

During COP26, the Task Force released the Global Mayors Action Agenda on Climate and Migration, setting out the group’s collective vision, shared principles and ambitions for achieving inclusive action on climate and migration.

By laying out recommendations for local, national and international actors, C40 mayors hope to inspire a coalition of city and national governments, multilateral organisations and financial institutions to support this effort to address the urban dimension of climate change and human mobility.

The action agenda includes the following ten principles, which can be endorsed or adopted by any city:

  1. Put people at the centre of climate action by protecting them from climate hazards and leveraging a recovery from COVID-19 that benefits everyone.
  2. Promote inclusive and equitable climate action, recognising that the climate crisis disproportionately impacts vulnerable and marginalised groups, including migrants and displaced people.
  3. Help people adapt in place or move away from hazard-prone areas in a way that preserves the assets, rights and dignity of those who move, and is ecologically sustainable.
  4. Endeavour to welcome people who have moved or been displaced -including for climate-related reasons -ensuring fundamental rights and equitable access to services regardless of migration or legal status.
  5. Deliver a just transition that provides good-quality jobs for migrants and displaced people, including in the informal sector, and recognises their contributions to greening local economies and delivering climate action.
  6. Partner with migrants, displaced, and diaspora communities, listening to and amplifying their voices in local policymaking, and national and global advocacy.
  7. Pursue and share data and information to help cities and residents assess and reduce climate risks and increase resilience.
  8. Advocate for supportive national and international policies and direct funding to cities to meet and exceed the goals set in the Global Compacts for Migration and Refugees, the Paris Agreement and other global agendas.
  9. Engage in multi-stakeholder partnerships to address climate and migration challenges, enhancing efforts to cooperate with national governments, international organisations, civil society and the private sector.
  10. Model behaviour by investing city resources in inclusive climate action, leading the way in planning, preparing and responding to the current impact of the climate crisis on migration.

The action agenda is supported by Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH (RBSG); with RBSG’s investment, a new chapter of the Global Cities Fund (GCF) for Inclusive Climate Action (ICA) has been launched to respond to the unmet needs of cities as they support migrants and displaced people during COVID-19. In its initial stage, the GCF-ICA will support five city-led interventions in Africa with grants of up to $200,000 USD available to each grantee over a period of twelve months. Visit the GCF-ICA website to learn more about this initiative.

Project partners and supporters

  • The Mayors Migration Council is a mayor-led advisory and advocacy organisation that helps cities shape national and international policy on migration and displacement. Guided by a Leadership Board including the mayors of Amman, Bristol, Freetown, Kampala, Los Angeles, Milan, Montreal, Sao Paulo and the former mayor of Athens, the MMC’s mission is to ensure that global responses to migration and displacement both reflect and address realities on the ground for the benefit of migrants, the displaced, and the communities that receive them.