New coalition launches to combat concerns about effects of climate change on migration

London, March 30th 2011 – A new coalition is launched today to address growing concerns about the effects of climate change on migration. The UK Climate Change & Migration Coalition (UKCCMC) brings together experts from across the refugee, human rights, environment, development and climate change sectors and aims to foster increased dialogue and cooperation on the crucial but complex issue of climate induced displacement and movement.   

The new Coalition looks to give voice to people at risk of displacement and those displaced by environmental change. It sees its task as three-fold: to support action to avoid the worst effects of climate change; to support the right of people to move freely in response to climate change and to ensure that governments and public authorities support the security and welfare of those who do migrate. Steering forward this work are organisations including The Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN), Praxis, The Migrant Rights Network, The Religious Society of Friends (The Quakers), The Environmental Justice Foundation and The Evelyn Oldfield Unit.

Coordinator of the new UKCCMC Hannah Smith says:

We have seen a clear increase in extreme weather events like floods, storms and hurricanes – these alongside less visible changes like desertification and sea level rise make the potential displacement of significant numbers of people a reality we must respond to. It is time to stop predicting disaster and instead to look sensibly at how we prepare for the changes ahead. People do not want to become ‘refugees’ and decisions we make now will determine whether people move in response to climate change as an exercise of choice or as a matter of survival.


According to a recent study by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 20 million people were forcibly displaced because of climate related natural disasters such as droughts, hurricanes and floods in 2008. At present, there are major gaps in the legal protection framework for people at risk of forced displacement linked to climate change. There are also limited legal opportunities for people to move voluntarily.


The challenge of responding to climate induced movement is that is cuts across multiple organisational agendas.  Vaughan Jones, Chief Executive of Praxis says:


Migration is an area where inadequate and incorrect information abounds.  There are many myths, some spread maliciously and some out of ignorance of the facts.  The very real threat of climate change and the necessity for those affected to adapt their livelihoods through migration needs careful understanding.  Praxis is a member of UKCCMC because we need to understand the impact of climate change on migration but also to avoid alarmist responses which bedevil work with and for migrant communities.


Developing a more coherent response and working on joint communications are key priorities for the Coalition so as to limit the risk of undoing each others’ valuable work.


The Coalition’s work is made possible with the support of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. Andrew Barnett, Director of the UK Branch of the Foundation says:


The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is in a privileged position to support transnational work tackling contemporary issues in Europe. Our founder, Calouste Gulbenkian, was himself a migrant, and had a profound interest in the relationship between man and the environment. The issues around environmental migration are especially complex and urgent and, increasingly, we are focusing on these areas. In the face of rising hostility to migrants throughout Europe, the launch of the UKCCMC will create a platform for coherent engagement in the UK, and support the development of a coordinating network Europe-wide.

To mark the launch of this challenging but exciting new initiative the Coalition is hosting a panel discussion on Wednesday 30th March. The evening will include presentations from Cecilia Tacoli (International Institute for Environment and Development), Ansar Ahmed Ullar (European Action Group on Climate Change), Caroline Dommen (Quaker United Nations Office) and Tori Timms (Environmental Justice Foundation).


About the UKCCMC

THE UKCCMC aims to develop a response that first limits the likelihood of forced movement, empowering people to move voluntarily, and second prepares for forced migration where inevitable. For more information on the issues or information on how to get involved you can visit their new website at


The Coalition builds on the work of the ‘Refugee’ roundtable – a joint initiative of Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN) and Jean Lambert MEP.  The roundtable, a discussion group on climate change and forced migration, ran from June 2008 until January 2010. 


Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation is an international charitable foundation with cultural, educational, social and scientific interests. Based in Lisbon with branches in London and Paris, the Foundation is in a privileged position to support transnational work tackling contemporary issues in Europe. The purpose of the UK Branch in London is to connect and enrich the experiences of individuals, families and communities, and one of its core aims is to help in the development of a society which benefits from a more sustainable relationship with the natural world.

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