Climate change and rising temperatures are the leading causes of natural disasters such as flooding, storms, land sliding, wildfires, drought, and desertification, to name a few. With the rate of change of climate, the frequency and scale of these disasters have also gone up over the last decades. Related to these natural phenomena, although it may feel like it often happens far away and not in the immediate term, climate-induced migration is emerging in several regions across countries, including Europe, leaving almost no country immune to its consequences. Even though it is hard to disentangle the root causes of migration, and several push and pull factors are at play during the mobility process, environmental reasons are emerging as a significant push factor.  

Some of the key characteristics of climate-induced migration, research suggests, are that it takes place mainly within the borders of a country (i.e. internal). That return migration is very common (95 per cent of the time). While it is a complex task to come up with exact figures, it is estimated that nearly 350 million people have been displaced because of weather conditions and natural disasters from 2008-2021. Most of these people returned (except around 6 million), and an even smaller proportion crossed international borders. The type of natural disaster, fast- versus slow-onset events, also determines the nature of displacement, e.g., involuntary versus voluntary or temporary versus permanent. 

All in all, the pace of climate change and existing inequalities in adaptation and resilience capacities suggest that climate-induced migration will rise as an important issue to be addressed in the coming years. And the key question remains: how will climate change adaptation and mitigation policies interact with migration (and eventually integration) policies? 

Against this background, in January 2023, ETUI held a webinar on an emerging topic at the nexus of climate change and migration. The online event brought together trade unionists from around Europe working on issues of green transition and social protection. After an opening speech setting the scene on climate-induced migration and a presentation by a firefighter union representative, they even went on in an interactive mode with participants sharing their involvement and experiences with climate change and migration. 

All participants agreed that the accurate scale of environmental migration in Europe is an under-reported phenomenon. They discussed some consequences of climate-induced migration on workers and their communities. Amongst them, permanent or temporary company closures, depopulation of areas affected by environmental disasters, brain drain of workers leaving these areas and pressure on wages have been highlighted. Under these circumstances, they reflected about elements of trade union responses to address the consequences of climate-induced migration. 

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