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TACKLING CLIMATE MIGRATION: Millions of people around the world are already being displaced by rising sea levels, extreme weather events and drought every year. According to Vittoria Zanuso, executive director of the Mayors Migration Council (MMC) — a mayor-led global coalition aimed at helping climate migrants — the overwhelming majority of climate migrants head to their nearest cities. “Since 2008 the climate emergency has forced the displacement of more than 21 million people every year,” Zanuso said in a phone interview from Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, where she is attending the COP27 climate summit. “The World Bank expects that number to jump to 1 billion people by 2050.”
A problem for everyone: While most climate displacements occur within the low and middle-income countries often referred to as the Global South, Zanuso said those movements inevitably have international impacts. “Dhaka, Bangladesh, takes in an average of 2,000 climate migrants every day,” Zanuso explained. “It’s a very big city, but it has already received around 18 million people … As it has become more crowded, many who moved there initially have subsequently migrated to cities like Paris or London, which now boasts a Bangladeshi community of 200,000.” Similar trends have been recorded in countries like Italy, where a new report from IDOS research in Rome shows that the majority of migrants who arrived in 2021 came from countries devastated by floods and droughts.
Money talks: Zanuso and MMC mayors have been pressuring global leaders at COP27 to speed up action on climate mitigation. “The international community promised to set aside $100 billion in climate finance per year,” Zanuso said. “That’s not even close to what’s needed, but not even that is being fulfilled.” Zanuso argued that countries needed to “fix their broken climate finance promises” and direct that money toward cities and local governments, “who are at the forefront of the issue and best equipped to immediately respond to vulnerable communities.”
No time to waste: MMC last year partnered with C40 Cities to expand its existing pandemic-relief Global Cities Fund for Migrants and Refugees to also boost green jobs for climate migrants in five African cities. This week the Ikea Foundation announced that it would contribute $1.2 million to expand the scheme to an additional six cities including Casablanca, Dar es Salaam, eThekwini, Hargeisa, Nairobi and Rwanda’s Nyamagabe District. The fund is a step forward, Zanuso said, but a drop in the bucket compared to what’s needed: Some 86 million people in Africa are expected to be displaced by climate change by 2050.
Northern support: MMC members in European cities are developing projects aimed at helping those who are forced to move abroad as a result of climate change. In Milan, Mayor Giuseppe Sala has committed to creating over 50,000 new, green jobs in sustainable construction and other sectors. Some of those jobs will be reserved for climate migrants, Zanuso said. But she stressed that more needs to be done to address the root causes of climate migration. “There is a big difference between people who are in your city because they want to be there and those who are there not out of choice, but because they have been displaced,” she said. “We need to do everything we can to stop that from happening.”
COP27 NEWS: Read the latest from our reporting team at COP27 in POLITICO’s Energy and Climate newsletter which we’ve brought free for the two weeks of the summit. Also, look out for our Twitter Space discussion live from Sharm El Sheikh on Friday.