The Impact of Climate Change on Migration and the Role of Remittance in Resilience Investments

Climate change is accelerating migration, particularly in the Global South. 

Deteriorating environmental conditions are pushing people from their homes, seeking refuge in safer, more sustainable regions. According to data from the IOM 2024 World Migration Report and the 2024 Global Report on Internal Displacement (GRID) published this month, migration is becoming a major factor in climate change spillover. This migration, whether internal or cross-border, poses significant challenges but also presents opportunities, particularly through remittances from migrants. These financial flows can help bridge the gaps in adaptation and resilience investments in their home countries.

The Climate-Migration Nexus

Climate change is increasingly a primary driver of migration. It exacerbates environmental conditions, leading to both slow-onset events, such as droughts and desertification, and sudden-onset disasters, such as floods and hurricanes. These stressors hit agrarian societies hardest, leading to food insecurity and economic instability, which in turn fuel migration. Consider Sub-Saharan Africa; prolonged droughts have decimated crops in Somalia and Ethiopia, driving many to urban areas or abroad. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Center’s (IDMC) 2024 GRID revealed that in 2023, Somalia saw 673,000 people displaced due to climate-related events. This movement is often a matter of survival rather than choice.

Remittances: A Financial Lifeline

Remittances—funds sent back home by migrants—are crucial for many families in the Global South. Often surpassing official development assistance, these funds can play a pivotal role in building climate resilience and adapting to new environmental realities.

  • Sustainable Agriculture: Remittances can fund climate-resilient agricultural practices. Investing in drought-resistant crops and efficient irrigation systems can bolster food security and reduce vulnerability to climate shocks.
  • Infrastructure Development: These funds can improve local infrastructure, such as building flood defenses and upgrading housing to withstand extreme weather. This dual benefit of protection and economic relief is invaluable.
  • Financial Inclusion: Promoting financial products tailored to migrants and their families can ensure remittances are saved and invested wisely. Savings accounts, insurance, and credit facilities provide a safety net against climate risks and support long-term planning.

Innovative Mechanisms

Several mechanisms can enhance the impact of remittances on climate adaptation:

  • Diaspora Bonds: Issuing bonds to diaspora communities can finance large-scale climate adaptation projects like seawalls and renewable energy infrastructure.
  • Mobile Money Platforms: Technology can facilitate remittance transfers, especially to remote areas. Platforms like these can also offer financial services that encourage the productive use of funds, such as microloans for green businesses.
  • Community Investment Funds: Pooled remittances can finance collective adaptation projects, such as community water reservoirs and sustainable agricultural initiatives.

A Case in Point: Bangladesh

Bangladesh offers a compelling example due to its vulnerability to cyclones, floods, and rising sea levels. According to the IDMC’s 2024 GRID, roughly 1.8 million people were displaced by climatic events in 2023, enabling opportunities for:

  • Cyclone Preparedness: Remittances have enabled families to build resilient homes, elevated against floodwaters and reinforced to withstand storms.
  • Agricultural Innovation: Migrant families invest in salt-tolerant rice and improved irrigation, sustaining agriculture in flood-prone areas.
  • Community Infrastructure: Through pooled remittances, communities have constructed elevated roads and cyclone shelters, significantly reducing vulnerability during extreme weather.

As climate change continues to drive migration, leveraging remittances to build resilience becomes imperative. Investments in sustainable agriculture, robust infrastructure, and financial inclusion can significantly bridge the adaptation gap. Innovative financial mechanisms and community-based models can amplify this impact, turning the challenges of climate-induced migration into opportunities for sustainable development. By fostering partnerships and crafting conducive policies, stakeholders can harness the power of remittances for climate adaptation, ensuring that the forces driving migration can also propel communities towards a more resilient future.