Brief: Climate Migration
in Mexican and Central American Cities
Climate Migration in Mexican and Central American Cities summarizes findings from a report prepared for the Mayors Migration Council by researchers at Columbia University and the City University of New York to help us better understand the effects of climate-related internal migration on urbanization in Mexico and parts of Central America (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama).
Building on the Groundswell methodology while incorporating refinements to better capture the urban dimension of climate migration, the research finds that climate-related disruptions to food production and water availability could have significant repercussions for migration and result in growing urban populations. Without concrete climate and development action, up to 10.5 million climate migrants may make their way to urban centers in Mexico and Central America by 2050. Climate in-migration hot spots across the region will emerge in larger urban areas with better climate conditions and more livelihood opportunities, including in Mexico, where cities could receive 8 million climate migrants in the next 30 years.
Climate in-migration to cities may become the new normal but it does not need to become a crisis.
Early planning and local investments could help city hot spots prepare for new arrivals, including through improved social services and infrastructure. If well-planned and managed, in-migration can create positive outcomes in urban areas, including more vibrant communities and economies.
Key global recommendations developed in partnership with the C40 Climate Leadership Group include:
Invest in city governments to implement projects that focus on the inclusion of migrant and displaced people while mitigating the impacts of the climate crisis on marginalized communities and fast-growing, at-risk urban areas. This investment should utilize existing funding and/or financing mechanisms to directly resource city-led projects. Examples include the new Global Cities Fund for Inclusive Climate Action, which unlocks direct technical and financial resources to cities addressing the needs of migrant and displaced communities affected by the climate crisis, or UN-level funds such as the Migration MPTF or the Green Climate Fund, two funding mechanisms that benefit national governments but could be adapted to include city governments as implementation partners, or possibly, eligible recipients.
Partner with city governments to continue building the research base for climate-driven urbanization and evidence-based approaches to climate mitigation and migrant inclusion. 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 a human lens to future trends. The Mixed Migration Centre and Mayors Migration Council’s joint 4Mi Cities data collection initiative, for example, works directly with six city governments in two regions to uncover the needs, assets, and aspirations of urban migrants and refugees as they interact with local policies and services.
Involve city governments as policy-makers in national, regional, or international policy deliberations and stock-taking on climate migration. As cities meet and exceed the goals of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM), the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), the Paris Agreement, and other global agendas, international actors should involve mayors and city governments in further agenda-setting and stock-taking, for example by following the recommendations of the C40-MMC Global Mayors Action Agenda on Climate and Migration, which outlines bold steps to accelerate global responses to the climate crisis and human mobility.