As the demand for water, land and food increases, and as climate change intensifies, wetlands are the most rapidly declining ecosystems in the world. When these natural buffers lose their ability to effectively store and regulate water, and support food production, people are deprived of their well-being, resulting in social tensions, conflict and sometimes human mobility. And, as both the IPCC and IPBES recognise, some wetlands also function as important carbon stores and natural defenses against flood damage. Wetland conservation and restoration therefore make perfect climate sense!
Although the exact relationship will be context specific, the nexus between the health of wetland ecosystems, human mobility and security deserves much greater attention in the context of climate adaptation, development and humanitarian strategies.
The WIM ExCom in 2016 called for more information on reasons for internal and cross-border migration, displacement and other forms of human mobility related to climate change impacts. At least 32 of the 69 submissions received referred to water hazards and stressors as drivers of human mobility, but only few of them referred to freshwater ecosystem degradation. In addition, little information was brought forward about how to address such hazards and degradations.
COP21 requested the ExCom to establish a task force to develop recommendations for integrated approaches to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change. These recommendations will be forwarded to the ExCom for consideration and submission at COP24.
What should these recommendations include?.
The lessons learned and the effective practices on adaptation and sustainable use, and management of wetlands need to be shared more widely. ECO expects the Task force on Displacement and the ExCom to provide the COP with a set of recommendations aiming at recognising that unsustainable use of land and water resources and degradation of ecosystems, in particular freshwater ecosystems, which is a driver of human insecurity, migration, forced displacement and conflict. Climate change strategies offer opportunities for governments to seek a better understanding of “wetland hotspots,” contributing to climate resilience and peace, as well as the risks associated with wetlands degradation or disappearance.