Climate, Migration and Cities

Due to expanding populations, including the influx of migrant from climate-affected regions, cities’ residents, infrastructure and services are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Indeed, many cities are already suffering from climate-related hazards including flooding, coastal erosion, heatwaves and landslides, and many more will have to face these risks in the future. Informal cities are at the forefront of these challenges.

Changes in mobility patterns of climate migrants in Ethiopia
Jin-ho Chung

Climate mobilities are largely in-country, heading to large/capital cities from climate affected rural areas, and not necessarily permanent. Ethiopia is an important site to substantiate this movement as it is a) the second largest populated country in Africa, b) predominantly rural but with one of the fastest urbanisation rate of about 5% a year and double-digit annual GDP growth, c) a country with a wide range of climate change impacts due to its geographical diversity of altitudes, topography, habitat and livelihoods, and d) the third-top recipient of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa that received a total amount of €270 million over the last five years to reduce the arrival of migrants in Europe. Dr Chung will present why growing numbers of climate migrants are moving to Addis Ababa instead of large-scale commercial farms in the Gambella and Afar regions, which were popular destinations for internal migrants prior to 2008. Younger and better-educated dwellers in climate-sensitive rural areas with high population densities and land shortages are more likely to migrate to cities, where they believe more diverse opportunities are available, such as a wide range of jobs and better education/health services. This movement is for both men and women and despite some expected challenges in cities such as illegal status, sexual harassment and tough competition for jobs between different ethnic groups. This presentation is built on the analysis of literature review, mobility and vulnerability data collected from IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), and online interviews with academics and practitioners in Ethiopia due to the ongoing civil war and the COVID-19 pandemic.


A trail of two cities: climate anxieties and slippery objects
Bhawani Buswala, Michael Keith, Mayanka Mukherji

People move to and away from Delhi, many between home places characterised by poverty but also by diverse forms of environmental degradation, some more long term such as warming, drought and desertification; others more immediate and catastrophic such as major instances of flooding. Whether or not they are ‘climate migrants’ is not straightforward but the climate crisis is part of their backstory. Many struggle to find a dwelling space in the interstices of the city, building their own homes, renting, or buying self-build structures in informal markets in the pirate and occupancy urbanisms of the poor in India. Some of this occupation appropriates penumbral spaces alongside infrastructure such as drainage networks installed to control the circulation of water, occupied in precarious landscapes subject to flooding and eviction alike. Most of those who move in such circumstances make a living as well as a dwelling in the informal sector, some in the recycling and circulation of a host of goods including the vast and diverse forms of material that uses plastic as a significant part of its constitution.

In a parallel world, the city tries to mitigate the future carbon footprint of the city. It draws maps of precarity, geographies of vulnerability, and sites of carbon propensity. It seeks to regulate behaviours, the circulation of people and things in the city in a fashion that attempts to rationalise the metabolism of the city. In our research, we follow the people and the plastics through the city but also the fabrication of both the drains and the plastics in the municipal archive of the city’s responses to global environmental change. In this seminar, we explore in particular the ways in which data anxieties, data jugaad and policy vertigo structure this trail of two cities at a time of climate crisis.