Climate Migration Press Release

PRESS RELEASE: Climate Migration Council Co-Hosts Panel at Aspen Ideas: Climate 2024

This press release first appeared on the Climate Migration Council website. MMC engages in content partnerships with several organizations, and cross-posting does not indicate an endorsement or agreement.

Local Leaders, Immigration and Migration Experts Discussed the Challenges and Opportunities at the Intersection of Climate Change, Migration, and Displacement

MIAMI – The Climate Migration Council, in collaboration with the Mayors Migration Council and the University of Miami’s Climate Resilience Academy, hosted a panel discussion at Aspen Ideas: Climate 2024, entitled Cities at the Frontline of Climate Migration

The panel – the first time Aspen has held a discussion on climate-driven migration – featured leaders from U.S. cities and the international community, drawing a standing-room-only crowd. Discussion included the challenges and opportunities at the intersection of climate change and migration as well as identified models for success that state and local leaders can pursue. 

Climate Migration Council members Jaime Pumarejo, Former Mayor of Barranquilla, Colombia, Vittoria Zanuso, Executive Director of Mayors Migration Counciland Melissa Blaustein, 2023 Mayor of Sausalito and Current City Councilmember participated in the discussion.

In detailing his journey as Mayor of Barranquilla during the mass migration of Venezualens to Colombia, Pumarejo said, “Think about this: in three years 10.2% of our [Barranquilla, Colombia] population was recently arrived migrants. That means out of 200,000 kids that I had in my schools, 18,000 – now 22,000 – were recently arrived kids from Venezuela.” 

While the increase in population presented challenges, Pumarejo and his colleagues recognized the new migrants as a boon rather than a burden. 

“There is a way that we can give tools to these people to help them feel that they belong,” Pumarejo said.

To this point, Vox reporter Umair Irfan – who moderated the conversation – added: “We always think about migrants as a threat or as a drain but they’re also often an advantage.” 

Pumarejo agreed and added that failing to treat incoming populations with dignity and respect can have disastrous consequences: “What happens when it comes to a city is that these people that have low economic opportunities or don’t have the ability to buy property, they end up encroaching on areas that are biodiversity hotspots or that are more prone to climate risk…So it ends up being a vicious cycle where we’re perpetuating something that’s not going well.”

Indeed, the impacts of the climate crisis are affecting populations worldwide and increasingly shape whether, where, and how people migrate. 

Throughout the discussion, the panelists emphasized the value of investing in city-led action on climate and migration from the private sector and national governments, while also bringing visibility to ways local leaders can engage and advocate for solutions around climate-driven migration. 

Mayor Blaustein in particular beat the drum on the importance of the role of businesses in climate change and the experience of migrants: “The purpose of business in the world that we’re living in today cannot be about just making a profit anymore. It has to be about solving problems. None of us are going to find a path forward unless that’s how we are all looking at things. So, we need the state but we need our businesses to wake up and to really think about that.”  

Meanwhile, Zanuso provided a global perspective, contextualizing her remarks by stating that, “obviously climate is a crisis, but the immigration that it causes doesn’t need to be.” 

Zanuso continued by emphasizing the hope implicit in solutions that can help improve conditions in cities across the world. 

“There’s a common thread in terms of looking at this issue as something that is affecting all cities regardless if they’re at the point of origin, transit, or destination, but there’s also a common thread in looking at what type of solutions we are promoting in each place.”

The most salient takeaway from the panel was that the climate crisis will impact each and every one of us. 

“Make it a priority for you in the way you use your voice as an individual because we have a collective frustration and a collective responsibility as governments, as corporations, and as people to tackle the climate crisis,” Blaustein said. 

Through this panel, Aspen Ideas: Climate 2024 generated visibility for the Climate Migration Council’s commitment to putting people at the center of climate action. The event provided the opportunity to strengthen and foster new relationships between city leaders and key audiences to further advocate for climate migration solutions.

For a full recording of the session visit this link. For an event overview, visit this link. For more information, contact


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