Connecting the spots

Notes on migration and environment from a geographical perspective

 Jessica Wentz and Michael Burger

Jessica Wentz and Michael Burger

Michael Burger is the Executive Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School. Jessica Wentz is an Associate Director and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center. For more information about the Sabin Center’s activities, please visit their website. You can also subscribe to their Twitter (@ColumbiaClimate), Facebook, and Climate Law Blog.

2018-09-26 11:03:35 by Jessica Wentz and Michael Burger

Designing a Climate Change Displacement Coordination Facility – Key Issues for COP21

Since the first draft negotiating text was released last spring, the inclusion of a “climate change displacement coordination facility” in the anticipated Paris agreement has been on the table. Recently, in the wake of the migrant crisis in the Middle East and Europe, the issue of climate change-induced migration and displacement has received some media attention. Yet, there has been very little public discussion about what this facility would entail and how it would operate.

The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law published a briefing note to highlight some of the functions that the displacement coordination facility could fulfill, as well as some key questions for negotiators in the lead up to COP21 and subsequent talks. The note is not intended to be a proposal for how the facility should operate, nor do the functions highlighted below necessarily reflect what is politically or economically feasible. Rather, the note is intended to outline a broad array of considerations for decision-makers as they contemplate whether and how to proceed with the displacement coordination facility.

Some of the potential functions discussed in the briefing note include:

  1. The facility could serve as a funding mechanism for activities aimed at preventing or managing climate change-induced displacement and migration.
  2. The facility could provide technical assistance to international organizations and domestic governments to help them prevent, prepare for, and mange migration and displacement in this context. For example, the facility could compile information on the number and geographic distribution of migrants and displaced persons, and could coordinate with national governments and other entities to facilitate the safe resettlement of such persons.
  3. The facility could establish guidelines and standards for addressing climate change-induced displacement and migration. These could range from overarching normative principles, similar to the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, to specific technical standards for the classification and treatment of displaced persons. The facility could also make recommendations on national obligations related to the provision of financial support and relocation opportunities for displaced persons.
  4. The facility could coordinate and monitor the provision of humanitarian assistance and logistical support for displaced persons and migrants.

The briefing note also highlights some key questions about the governance of the facility, its situation within the UNFCCC, and the scope of displacement and mobility considerations that would be addressed through the facility. For example, will the prevention of displacement fall within the scope of the facility’s mandate and activities? And will the facility provide support for “voluntary” or “adaptive” migration?

As part of our continuing work on this issue, the Sabin Center welcomes input from other stakeholders on any potential functions and critical questions that are not identified in this briefing note, as well as recommendations on how the facility should be designed and operated. To provide your input, please contact Jessica Wentz ( and Michael Burger (, with “climate displacement coordination facility” in the subject of your email.

Image Credits: Salle pleinière "Seine" de la COP21 (Le Boruget), France Ecologie Energie // Cop21, Photo Benjamin Géminel, COP PARIS.