Climate Migration In The News

How Should Cities in Mexico and Central America Prepare for Climate Migration?

This article first appeared on IOM’s website. MMC engages in content partnerships with several organizations, and cross-posting does not indicate an endorsement or agreement.

A recent study published by the Mayors Migration Council, entitled “Climate Migration in Mexican and Central American Cities”, 2022, indicates that by the year 2050, the urban centers of Mexico and Central America could receive, in the most pessimistic scenario, 10.5 million environmental migrants as a result of the effects of climate change in our region. 

The aforementioned projection suggests that, in the absence of urban planning strategies and environmental and migration policies to manage climate variability as a result of human activity in a timely manner, countries like Mexico could have up to 8 million climate migrants moving to urban centers ranging from Mexico City to medium-sized cities such as Monterrey and Guadalajara.  

Another of the countries in the region that would see a significant number of people migrating to its cities would be Honduras, where according to estimates, by 2050 it would have about 742,500 climate migrants. In the worst case, the projected number could reach 380,000 in Tegucigalpa and 300,000 in San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras. Unlike Guatemala and El Salvador, rural Honduran areas will experience relatively high population growth. This suggests that some people could be trapped in remote and high-risk settings, unable to move elsewhere due to worsening weather conditions. 

As for the rest of the countries in the region, the study indicates that for the year mentioned (2050), Guatemala would reach about 187,000 environmental migrants in its main cities, El Salvador 173,000, Costa Rica 147,700 and Panama 127,200. These processes overlap with significant urbanization movements in many countries of the region. Indeed, climate change would exacerbate ongoing demographic processes that are increasing the size of cities in the region. 

Although sustainable development paths would reduce these worrying numbers, the fact is that Mexico and Central America are places that are highly susceptible to different climate impacts, both sudden and slow. From alterations in food production, low water availability, to the direct impact of hurricanes, floods and heat waves, they could have important repercussions on migratory dynamics. 

The main urban centers of the region, among which we can mention Mexico City, Monterrey, Guadalajara, Guatemala City, San José and Tegucigalpa, tend to be in mountainous areas away from those on the coast, which basically means , that the largest cities in the region are less likely to be affected by sea level rise and enjoy more temperate climates than coastal areas.  

However, as urban centers are attractive arrival points for people, unsustainable and unplanned growth can trap an incalculable number of vulnerable people in cycles of inequality and marginalization, added to the fact that many cities today Latin Americans already face scenarios of water scarcity, as has been documented in countries such as Mexico and El Salvador, to give an example.

In this sense, municipal governments of all sizes in the region must prepare themselves and have policies and action plans in place to deal with the probable growth of the population and, at the same time, increase their capacity to mitigate the effects of droughts, rising sea levels, rising temperatures and worsening natural disasters. In addition, it is important to take into account that the aforementioned urban growth tends to occur in peripheral areas that are currently neglected, unplanned and at high risk of suffering these climatic impacts. 

For this reason, the call to the municipal governments of the region is to work on prevention and planning in the face of climate change and its effects on the human mobility of local populations, as well as the creation of opportunities to contribute to inclusive growth. and sustainable development of host communities as agents of change in a green and just transition. 

But cities can’t do it alone. International and national actors focused on inclusive climate action must include mayors and governments in political decisions, increase financial investment to improve the capacities and services of cities, as well as approve development and migration policy reforms that enable fairer representation of cities in policy making. 

First, there is a need to invest in municipal governments to put in place projects that focus on the inclusion of migrants and displaced people, while mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis on rapidly growing and marginalized communities and in high-risk urban areas. 

As a second measure, it is necessary to create alliances with municipal governments to have research and scientific evidence on the problem of urbanization driven as a result of climatic events. Continued research should include localized future scenario modeling to better understand the quantitative scale of climate-related urbanization in other regions, but also qualitative data to better understand the profiles, motivations, and vulnerabilities of climate migrants to add focus. human to future trends.  

Finally, the research insists on the importance of involving municipal governments in national, regional and international policies, and in international policy deliberations on climate migration. It should be remembered that international agreements such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration highlight the importance of having a greater understanding of climate change as a driver of human mobility, which includes commitments to address the causes and adoption policies to protect those affected. 

The next United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP27), which will take place in November this year in Egypt, is presented as a great opportunity for the countries of the region to draw attention to the urgent need to have plans for action to achieve more sustainable cities, as well as addressing other important initiatives such as energy efficiency, resilient and low-carbon buildings, waste, urban mobility and urban water management.  


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