Past Program

Dec 17 - Dec 20, 2014

Addressing the Challenges of Climate Migration: Legal Protections, Resilience & Eco-Security


As the 21st century advances and the global population rises, competition for water, energy and natural resources will cut across policy agendas, from trade and investment to agriculture, infrastructure and defense. Climate change, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem mismanagement reflect cumulative governance failures and act as a threat multiplier to economic and social sustainability. Citizens across developed, developing, and least-developed countries will find it increasingly difficult to rely on governments or insurance companies as systemic vulnerabilities escalate.  In areas worst-affected by drought, flooding, declining crop yields, and health threats, “climate migrants” will leave their homes and land.

Predictions of climate-induced displacement are shocking – 200 million people by 2050.  Since 1990, when the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested that large-scale migrations might represent the “greatest single impact” on world security, scientists have scaled up their predictions and highlighted the risks associated with slow-onset disasters (such as sea level rise, droughts, and environmental degradation) and rapid-onset disasters (such as earthquakes, fires, and hurricanes). In 2014, the IPCC has acknowledged the multitude of climatic and non-climatic drivers of migration but says that there is no question that “human security will be progressively threatened as the climate changes.”

Salzburg Global Seminar is hosting a strategy session to design a multi-year program to connect and accelerate actions addressing the challenges of mass migrations resulting from climate change. Salzburg Global will convene top practitioners, researchers, and economic actors to crystallize what is known about the likely patterns and timeframe of climate-induced migration and assess practical options for refugee policy; urban demographics, absorption capacity, disaster preparedness and resilience; innovations for food and water supply systems; international and national legal, financial, and practical tools and frameworks; the interlocking long-term nature of trans-boundary and global climate and ecological risks and costs; and regional and national security. 

For any further information, please contact the progam director, Charles Ehrlich, at

Session Overview

Salzburg Global Seminar, working with select international partners, is developing a multi-year program to connect and accelerate actions addressing the challenges of mass migrations resulting from climate change.
A strategy meeting will take place in December 2014, with the full program envisaged to start in 2015 – a landmark year of opportunity in which the international community has committed to finalize Sustainable Development Goals and a new climate change agreement.
The full multi-year series will include convening sessions in Salzburg as well as one or two in-region meetings each year.

Program Objectives and Outcomes

This program seeks to focus attention on:

1) The interlocking long-term nature of transboundary and global climate and ecological risks  and costs;

2) The need to allocate responsibilities to prevent and manage disaster risks effectively and efficiently to protect vulnerable sectors of society and future generations;and

3) The legal, financial and practical tools already at the disposal of business, the international community, governments, local authorities and other stakeholders.

The goals of the strategy meeting in December 2014 will be to:

  • Finalize and prioritize program focal areas;
  • Frame key questions, ensuring that interconnected issues along the entire prevention-response continuum are included;
  • Identify first-movers and change-makers that must be at the table; and
  • Select strategically-significant geographical areas where in-country follow-up would gain maximum traction and visibility of efforts.

Building on the outcomes of this strategy session, Salzburg Global’s multi-year series will initially focus on three interconnected dimensions of climate-induced displacement: legal protections, planning for resilience and regional and national eco-security.  Each presents major transnational, economic, and governance challenges that will directly affect the functioning and cohesion of societies in the future.

Suggested Readings

American Progress – 2012

Climate Change, Migration, and Conflict: Addressing Complex Crisis Scenarios in the 21st Century

American Progress – 2014

Climate Change, Migration, and Nontraditional Security Threats in China: Complex Crisis Scenarios and Policy Options for China and the World

Asian Development Bank – 2012

Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific, Final Report 

Ben Wisner et al. – 2007

Climate Change and Human Security

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – 2014

Preparing BC for Climate Migration

Displacement Solutions– 2012

Climate Displacement in Bangladesh: The Need for Urgent Housing, Land, and Property Rights Solutions

Displacement Solutions – 2013

The Peninsula Principles for Climate Displacement Within States 

Finding Land Solutions to Climate Displacement: A Challenge Like Few Others 

Displacement Solutions – 2014

The Peninsula Principles in Action: Climate Change and Displacement in the Autonomous Region of Guanyala, Panama

Displacement Solutions and Young Power in Social Action – 2014

Climate Displacement in Bangladesh: Stakeholders, Laws, and Policies 

Frank Biermann and Ingrid Boas – 2010

Preparing for a Warmer World: Towards a Global Governance System to Protect Climate Refugees (published in Global Environmental Politics)

German Advisory Council on Global Change – 2014

Climate Change as a Security Risk 

Climate Protection as a World Citizen Movement 

International Organization for Migration – 2014

Outlook on Migration, Environment, and Climate Change

Nansen Initiative – 2013

Regional Consultation for the Pacific, Final Report 

Regional Consultation for Central America, Final Report 

Regional Consultation for Horn of Africa, Final Report 

United Kingdom Government Office for Science – 2011

Migration and Global Environmental Change: Future Challenges and Opportunities (Foresight Report) 

United Kingdom Ministry of Defense – 2014

Global Strategic Trends out to 2045

United Nations University – 2013

Changing Climate, Moving People: Framing Migration, Displacement, and Planned Relocation (Policy Brief) 

United Nations University – 2014

Integrating Human Mobility Issues Within National Adaptation Plans (Policy Brief)

World Bank – 2014

Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Normal


James Beard
Senior Research Consultant, Economic and Social Development Team, Mott MacDonald
Barbara Bendandi
Migration and Environment Policy Officer, International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Ingrid Boas
Assistant Professor, Environmental Policy Group, Wageningen University
Cynthia Brady
Senior Peacebuilding & Conflict Advisor, Bureau for Democracy, Conflict & Humanitarian Assistance, Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation, USAID
Sanjeev Chatterjee
Professor of Cinema and Interactive Media, University of Miami, Florida, USA
Roger-Mark de Souza
Director of Population, Environmental Security & Resilience, Woodrow Wilson Center
Bart Édes
Director, Poverty Reduction, Social Development, and Governance Division; Chair, Social Development & Poverty CoP, Asian Development Bank
Charles Ehrlich
Program Director, Salzburg Global Seminar
Helga Flores-Trejo
External Relations Advisor, Corporate Affairs Division, Inter-American Investment Corporation
Margaret Collins
Secretary - Science and National Member Organizations, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Jackie Koney
Director of Development Operations,
Florian Kraxner
Deputy Program Director, Ecosystems Services and Management Program, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Scott Leckie
Director and Founder, Displacement Solutions
John Lotherington
Salzburg Global Seminar, United Kingdom
Ronald Mangum
Professor of National Security Studies, Graduate Program, School of Global Studies, American Military University, Charles Town, WV
Margery Moore
Robert Muir-Wood
Chief Research Officer, Risk Management Solutions
Ursula Oswald-Spring
Professor and Researcher, Regional Multidisciplinary Research Centre, University of Mexico, Cuernavaca, Mexico
Thomas Pogge
Leitner Professor of philosophy and international affairs; Founding Director, Global Justice Program, Yale University
Arifur Rahman
Chief Executive, Young Power in Social Action (YPSA)
Clare Shine
Vice President and Chief Program Officer, Salzburg Global Seminar
Wolfgang Teubner
Regional Director Europe,Managing Director,ICLEI European Secretariat
Kira Vinke
Research Analyst, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research for the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU)
Michael Werz
Senior Fellow, American Progress