No longer a blind spot: Climate change adaptation policies must address forced displacement

Jason Gagnon and Jens Hesemann


This brief article advocates for a systemic, long-term, development-oriented approach to climate-induced displacement, alongside humanitarian responses. 

The authors draw on an analysis of 42 National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and 166 Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). NAPs are submitted by developing states to Conferences of the Parties (COP) and detail their medium- and long-term adaptation priorities and strategies. NDCs are climate action plans to cut emissions and adapt to climate impacts. 

Main findings: 

  • Only one-third of countries mention forced displacement in either NAPs or NDCs. Forty-eight percent of states include provisions on climate-related displacement in NAPs, while 14 percent mention climate-related displacement in NDCs. 
  • When they address forced displacement, NAPs and NDCs suffer lack concrete commitments, objectives, and actions on climate related forced displacement. They fail to address concerns of pre-existing refugees and internally displaced persons, who are amongst the most vulnerable and often live in areas at-risk of being climate change. And they rarely make the connection between displacement and loss and damage. 

The authors argue that ahead of the 2023 Global Refugee Forum and COP28, countries should systematically integrate forced displacement in NAPs and NDCs. This requires bringing together environmental experts, displacement experts and implementing agencies to integrate displacement into NAPs and NDCs, including extending existing adaptation initiatives to displaced persons, and developing new initiatives that address displacement impacts. Consideration should be given to addressing the root causes of climate-induced displacement, the sustainable integration of displaced populations in places where they settle, as well as regional and international implications. Finally, the authors call for better displacement disaggregated socio-economic data and analysis to enable more effective monitoring of climate actions.