How can cities better integrate migrants, refugees, and diaspora communities into their climate adaptation policies? Elisabeth du Parc reviews the case of Paris.
While countries are trying to limit the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5°C following the Paris Agreement, the Paris region has already passed the 2°C mark of warming compared to the pre-industrial era. As the average temperature rises, the French capital experiences increasingly hot summers and drier soils, as well as milder winters with more intense flooding.
As a major urban centre hosting migrants and bringing together diasporas, Paris is at the heart of mobility dynamics. Approximately 25 per cent of the population living in the city are foreign-born. The capital is both a reservoir of greenhouse gas emissions and a densely populated area. Therefore, it has a responsibility, while having limited legal capacity and resources, to be an agent of change through successful adaptation planning. Migrants and refugees arriving in the city are exposed to the consequences of climate change, coupled with the artificialization of land, urban density, and the lack of vegetation. The City of Paris is due to release its new Climate Plan 2024–2030 in December 2023, which contains policies aiming to reduce inequalities in the face of climate change.
Integrating Migrants in Climate Adaptation Approaches
A project led by the IOM and conducted in collaboration with the Hugo Observatory and the City of Paris identified five priority thematic areas (urban planning, healthcare, employment, participation and inclusion, advocacy and diplomacy) to accelerate the integration of migration and refugees in the city’s climate adaptation policies. Migrants in Paris could benefit from increased access to basic services and administrative support to increase the recognition of their professional and linguistic qualifications. In addition, migrants’ employment rates and wage levels could be higher considering their work in highly strenuous occupations, requiring increased resilience in the face of climate change.
To better link human mobility and the green economy, labour mobility should be considered as a climate change adaptation strategy, embrace migrant workers’ contribution to the green transition, as well as leverage diaspora communities for climate action. The following examples show how that can be done.
Increasing Job Opportunities in the Field of Ecological Transition
Paris is home to a wide variety of such diaspora communities, the largest of which are from Africa and China. Diasporas have the power to invest in development or risk-reduction programmes, powered by their economic, human, social and cultural capital and connected by the iDiaspora platform. Social transfers of beliefs, knowledge or even skills gained through migration have the potential to stimulate local climate adaptation efforts by communities of origin.
In Morocco, IOM contributed to the promotion of sustainable rural development in local communities by facilitating Moroccan diaspora members’ investments in agroecology. Among others, the reduction of remittance costs and the removal of obstacles to the use of digital transfers, for example by setting up cooperation programmes with cities of origin aimed at increasing Internet access, shows how human mobility can help achieve the SDGs and support development beyond 2030.
Moreover, the ecological transition can be pushed forward, and climate goals can be met by matching migrant workers to the labour market’s needs. In recent years, France has seen an increase in the number of unaccompanied minors present on its territory. Through early protection mechanisms and then adequate vocational training and language courses, the young workforce can contribute to addressing demographic changes in France, as in all OECD countries, which provoke a mismatch between the offer and demand of workers.
Thus, it is necessary to increase employment opportunities in the field of just transition, taking advantage of migrants’ skills and ideas to innovate and respond to shortages. Among all professional sectors, construction is not only in short supply but also the second most popular sector for migrants looking for work in Paris. Involving the skills of migrants from warmer climates enables new construction techniques to emerge – such as those developed by the German-Burkinabé Francis Kéré, winner of the latest Pritzker Prize.
Including All People in Disaster Risk Reduction
In line with the New Urban Agenda, migrants can contribute enormously to local disaster risk reduction with their knowledge and skills. Furthermore, according to the Sendai Framework for Action 2015-2030, disaster risk reduction efforts will be more effective if the entire population is mobilized and vulnerabilities are considered. However, socioeconomic, and institutional obstacles can make it difficult for migrants to participate in the collective risk-reduction effort. In Paris, migrants would benefit from more equitable housing solutions and an increased focus on diversity and inclusiveness in hiring processes. It is vital to foster a sense of belonging among people who migrated so they can be included in preparedness plans and emergency communication systems.
Finally, it is important to understand how migrants’ risk management heritage, knowledge, and beliefs can contribute to collective resilience. As part of IOM’s Migrants in Countries in Crisis initiative, Guidelines for the Protection of Migrants in Countries in Situations of Conflict or Disaster have been drawn up. These aim to provide practical advice to stakeholders at all levels on how to prepare for and respond to crises, protect, and empower migrants, build on their capacities, and help them and their communities recover from crises.
Cities’ Growing Importance in International Climate Governance
As a megalopolis impacted by climate change and a major destination for migratory flows, the City of Paris plays an important advocacy role when it comes to highlighting the need to step up efforts to meet the challenges of human mobility linked to environmental factors. In recent years, Paris has been involved in several networks and initiatives set up to promote and coordinate action by cities on climate and migration topics. Today, these networks constitute an important matrix for diplomacy between cities, enabling the exchange of good practices, but also playing an important advocacy role, particularly regarding the recognition of issues linked to climate migration. As an example, the City of Paris participated in the Thematic Workshop on Climate and Human Mobility organised by the French Chair of the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Paris, discussing urban and community resilience in the face of climate change.
To support the formulation of well-managed migration policies and foster a dialogue between national and local level authorities, IOM adapted the Migration Governance Indicators (MGIs) to the local level as the Local MGIs. This tool offers authorities an opportunity to have an introspective look at the policies, programmes and structures they have in place to manage migration. Along with partners, IOM recently launched A Call to Local Action for Migrants and Refugees to offer a concrete avenue for local and regional governments to be recognised for meeting global goals, such as the Global Compact on Migration. To this aim and based on its 2021-2030 Institutional Strategy on Migration, Environment and Climate Change, IOM promotes public-private partnerships and collaborates with city administrations to strengthen their capacities, as well as with networks of local governments, to better understand and address the interlinkages between migration, rapid urbanisation, the adverse effects of climate change, environmental degradation, disasters, and urban planning at the city level.
The role of cities is growing in importance in international climate governance, and cities like Paris are leading the way in addressing the impacts of climate change on migration.