The impact of climate change grows faster and stronger in the Arctic, threatening local populations and forcing them to leave their homes. How should Arctic states prepare to support populations heavily impacted by the effects of climate change, such as Internally Displaced People (IDP), and refugees?
Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs I
Chaired by Elisabeth Frauendorf (DE). Covered by Maddalena Simondi (IT)
Executive summary
The Arctic is facing significant challenges due to climate change, including melting ice caps, coastal erosion and disappearing permafrost. All of which increase the risk of tipping points. Especially erosion and rising sea levels threaten the homes and livelihoods of local and Indigenous communities, such as the Sàmi. As these communities are at risk of being displaced, it is crucial to already prepare the necessary infrastructure and services for future refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs). However, the region's limited resources, difficult landscape, harsh weather conditions and sparse population complicate matters. Another challenge during the immigration process is the political resistance against migrants due to xenophobia coming from right-wing parties in Nordic countries.

As this is an issue that affects local communities, it is primarily the responsibility of the eight Arctic States to care for their citizens and their right to traditional living.

However, international aid through the EU, the UN and the Arctic Council is crucial to effectively limit the overall environmental damages on the region as well as providing care for international refugees.

Measures like the Declaration on the Right of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) and the engagement of the Saami Council have brought to light the injustices of policies concerning Indigenous People and work to promote their interests. The European Green Deal, the Paris Agreement and Canada’s adaptation strategy are all grappling with the effects of climate change, including forced migration, thus providing great starting points for future action.
Listen to the audio Topic Overview
Climate change is the defining crisis of our time and disaster displacement one of its most devastating consequences.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
UNHCR (2001-2022). Climate change and disaster displacement. Link
 Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (2021). Global Report on Internal Displacement.Link
In 2020, climate disasters generated more Internally Displaced People (IDP) than wars, climate disasters generated more Internally Displaced People (IDP) than wars.2 This is due to the rising and accelerated effects of climate change. Today, forced displacement is not a novelty in the Arctic and it will only increase.3

However, forced migration will not stop at borders and will not happen exclusively in the Arctic. While the world is grappling with climate change and the problem continues to worsen, it is more relevant than ever to adapt in a humane and effective way.
Moreover, as whole communities are losing their homes, it is important to take a look at the cultural implications. Losing homes often represents more than losing housing, but also a part of your history, culture and identity. To keep culture alive, it needs a space to be practised in, also connecting it to its past. With this space being threatened, there is a risk of important cultural losses, decreasing human diversity in the process. As examples in recent history show:
Most likely relative sea level change (meter) over the period 1986-2005 to 2081-2100 for (a) RCP2.6, (b) RCP4.5, and (c) RCP8.5.
Climate change is, at its core, a story about the looming reality of losing the places and histories that make us who we are.
Victoria Hermann4
Senior Fellow and Leadership Group member at the Arctic Institute
Christelle Cazabat (2020). No matter of choice: Displacement in a changing climate. Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. Link
Key stakeholders
Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the USA are the eight states with Arctic territory and, therefore, hold the primary legislative competencies within the region. There are about four million people living in the Arctic of which 70 percent live in the territory of the Russian Federation.5

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a UN agency, legitimated by the Geneva convention from 1951, responsible for providing protection and assistance to refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people. The UNHCR provides short-term aid through emergency relief and protection of rights of refugees but also works on long-term solutions through assisting voluntary repatriation and local integration as well as raising awareness and advocating for refugee’s rights. Because of its large global budget, US$ 10.211 billion in 20238, and global scale it can exercise influence worldwide.9
The Arctic Council6 was founded in 1996 and is one of the Arctic’s most important forums for communication and cooperation, covering a variety of topics. It consists of the eight Arctic states and “Permanent Participants” representing Indigenous groups like the Sàmi Council. Although not a security and defence organisation per se, the Arctic Council redefined Arctic security policy and promoted cooperation in Arctic sovereignty. As of March 2022, the forum was put on hold, as a form of boycott, by the seven democratic member states (A7) in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.7
The Saami Council11 is an international NGO founded in 1956 to promote Sàmi rights and interests. The council’s EU unit provides information and takes part in various European discussion forums and EU programmes to further Sàmi representation and consideration of interests.

Indigenous Peoples are amongst those worst hit by climate change in the Arctic. Approximately ten percent of all Arctic inhabitants identify as Indigenous. Due to the effects of climate change, resulting violations against their rights to traditional living and cultural practices are of great concern.10
The EU shares the responsibility of global sustainable development also concerning the Arctic. While having some direct legislative influence through its Member States Denmark, Finland and Sweden and economic influence on Norway and Iceland as part of the European Economic Area (EEA), the EU’s impact in the Arctic revolves majorly around its part responsibility for environmental damage and its demand for resources and products. More generally, the EU plays a big role in the coordination and international prevention of forced migration.12 Particularly involved in this are the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the European Commission's department of Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME).
Climate Refugees
People forcibly displaced by the effects of climate change or natural disasters like droughts, floods or earthquakes. In 2020, there were 30.1 million climate refugees worldwide.

Legal Status:
No official status or legal protection (compared to “normal” refugees who if recognised by an institution like the UNHCR can claim international protection).30 31
According to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement: "persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border."

Legal Status:
They do not have a specific legal status and are under the responsibility of the national authorities.32
No universal definition but EU definitions:

Global: “a person who is outside the territory of the State of which they are nationals or citizens and who has resided in a foreign country for more than one year irrespective of the causes, voluntary or involuntary, and the means, regular or irregular, used to migrate.”

Legal Status:
The legal status of migrants in the EU depends on the country of origin and purpose of stay.33 34
For example, the EU Arctic forum, organised by the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS), brings together key Arctic players with the EU to discuss recent Arctic developments and challenges.
Victoria Herrman (2019). Climate Change Migration, Cultures, & Alaska’ Foreboding Ghost Village. The Arctic Institute. Link
German Arctic Office (2020). Fact Sheet Arctic Governance. Alfred-Wegener-Institut. Link
Arctic Council Secretariat (2022). Arctic Council: Who we are. Link
 Barry Scott Zellen (2022). The Arctic Council Pause: The Importance of Indigenous Participation and the Ottawa Declaration. Arctic Circle. Link
Shaugn Coggins, James D. Ford, et. al (2021). Indigenous Peoples and Climate Justice in the Arctic. Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. Link 
Saami Council (2022). About the Saami Council. Link 
 Press release (2021). EU engagement for a greener, peaceful and prosperous Arctic. European Commission. Link 
Measures in place
  • United Nations Framework for Climate Change Cooperation (UNFCCC)

    The United Nations Framework for Climate Change Cooperation (UNFCCC) first recognised migration, displacement and forced relocation as adaptive measures to climate change in 2010 at the sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP-16). Since then it established a Task Force on Displacement (TFD)13 in 2015 which is currently working on implementing the five-year rolling workplan of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts (WIM ExCom).14
  • Canada’s National Adaptation strategy to climate change

    Canada’s National Adaptation strategy16 to climate change, adopted in 2022, sets out to adapt Canada to climate change with an overarching and comprehensive approach. By setting out guiding principles, one of them including to “respect jurisdiction and uphold Indigenous rights”, it aims to transform Canada‘s approach to adaptation in the long, medium and short term, making the country more resilient. Remarkable about the strategy is the inclusion of Arctic Indigenous People in the concept and development process. By advancing climate risk assessment and developing local adaptation plans working closely together with local governments, it supports those most affected by climate change in Canada.
WIM ExCom supports developing countries in addressing and adapting to climate-related loss and damage. Workstream (d) specifically targets the “enhancement of cooperation and facilitation in relation to human mobility, including migration, displacement and planned relocation”. Source
The right to traditional living refers to the right of Indigenous People to maintain their traditional way of life and develop their culture. This includes their own spiritual and religious beliefs, languages, cultural knowledge and practises.
The right to participate in decision-making processes refers to the right of Indigenous People to be involved in legislative processes and other programmes concerning their people, lands and resources. At its core, it is the right to free and informed consent.
Local governments are crucial for success as they apply knowledge and information about the environment and climate change through environmental stewardship, disaster risk reduction, land use plans, resource management and emergency management.

Further they are responsible for 97% of publicly owned infrasturcture, land-use planning and zoning, water supply and wastewater management as well as flood and wildfire risk management. Source
The European Green Deal, adopted in 2019, sets out a strategy to make the EU carbon neutral by 2050. It includes measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change, including measures to address the issue of displacement. Source
Climate neutrality as an EU goal is defined as a net-zero emissions balance. This is achieved by emitting less greenhouse gasses as well as neutralising those emitted through absorption. Concretely, Member States are bound to decrease their domestic emissions by 55% compared to 1990 by 2030. Source
The Paris Agreement (2015) is an international treaty signed by 194 states and the EU that aims to limit global warming by pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement includes provisions to help countries adapt to the impacts of climate change, including measures to address displacement. Source
UNFCC (2022). Task Force on Displacement. Link
UNFCC (2018). Five-year rolling workplan of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts. Link
Resolution 61/295 (2007). Declaration on the Right of Indigenous People. UN. Link
Government of Canada (2022). Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy. Link
Communication 2019/640.  The European Green Deal. European Commission. Link
UN (2015). The Paris Agreement. Link  
Main challenges
The Arctic is facing significant challenges due to climate change
  • Human Security
    Climate change and global warming drastically affect the world and in particular the Arctic. The average annual Arctic temperature heats up twice as fast as the average annual global temperature, accelerating the problem. Further, issues such as the melting of ice caps, coastal erosion, melting permafrost and feedback loops are devastating phenomena that are exclusive to earth’s polar region.19 Erosion due to rising sea levels and melting permafrost destroy the landscape permanently putting inhabitants at risk to lose their homes and livelihoods.

    Local communities in the Arctic are especially endangered. Over eighty-five percent of Alaskan native villages are endangered by increased erosion, flooding and melting permafrost.20

    On Thin Ice: Exploring Solutions for Climate-Induced Displacement in the Face of Disappearing Permafrost
  • Providing Infrastructure
    With Arctic countries like Sweden and Norway taking in comparatively small numbers of refugees, if they were to take up more refugees as well as IDPs, it is questionable if Arctic host regions can provide adequate services and infrastructure. This is complicated by the fact that the Arctic is sparsely populated with limited infrastructure and resources, making it harder to relocate. The Nordic model relies on macroeconomic governance, universal welfare schemes and regulated labour markets. The integration process of refugees will increase the need for public spending, predicted to exceed revenues. It is not clear if the Nordic model is resilient enough or if integrating refugees will lead to greater inequality and reduce the achievements made in the previous decades.21
  • Indigenous representation in government
    With the Arctic Council being on hold, Indigenous communities have lost a huge platform to advocate for their rights and interest.22

    It is, however, crucial, that affected communities have a say in their relocation, deserving dignity and choices.23 As relocation is expensive, endangered villages have to rely on governments for support. If this support is denied or is met with inaction, it leaves communities in a state of insecurity, set up for displacement if disaster strikes.24

    Although Sàmi representation and political influence have improved both in Norway and Sweden, their voices are still marginalised, offering them less opportunities to influence the political agenda. This is partly due to the fact that the Sàmi are divided by national borders, being treated differently based on their location.25

    However, similar marginalisation happens to indigenous groups all over the Arctic like the First Nation in Canada.26
  • Migrant Policies
    In 2022 about 3.5 million immigrants are living in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) with the majority in Sweden, making up 18.1% of the population there.27 Sweden was also under the Migrant Integration Policy Index’s (MIPEX) top ten countries for integration.28 However, discontent about immigration into the Nordic countries is expressed, mainly by extreme right-wing parties (ERPs) in Nordic Parliaments, often in combination with racism and xenophobia. Researchers have called these protests against immigration and refusal of multiculturalism the “crisis of solidarity”.29
Climate feedback loops are mechanisms that either accelerate (positive) or slow down (negative) key climate factors both natural and human. If a positive feedback loop spirals out of control it reaches a point where the damage cannot be undone and the climate is permanently changed (tipping point). In the Arctic an example of a feedback loop is the thawing of permafrost: while it is melting due to global warming it releases its stored methane and carbon into the atmosphere which further accelerates global warming. Also the melting of sea ice creates a feedback loop as it reduces the surfaces to reflect solar radiation (albedo) leading to faster global warming. Source
Macroeconomic governance in the Nordic countries is the economic, fiscal and monetary policy focussed on full employment and social cohesion. Source
Universal welfare schemes in the Nordic countries provide access to education, largely free healthcare, support for women in the labour market and income security schemes. As a result the Nordic countries have high levels of education, high levels of labour force participation and more social mobility. Source
In this statistic, an immigrant is defined as a person who is foreign-born and whose parents are both foreign-born as well. An immigrant is distinguished from a descendant who is native-born but whose parents are both foreign-born. Source
European Parliament (2022). The future of climate migration. Link
Marie Kieval (2020). On Thin Ice: Exploring Solutions for Climate- Induced Displacement in the Face of Disappearing Permafrost. Arctic Yearbook. Link
Anne Britt Djuve (2016). Refugee migration – a crisis for the Nordic model?. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Link
Barry Scott Zellen (2022). The Arctic Council Pause: The Importance of Indigenous Participation and the Ottawa Declaration. Arctic Circle. Link
Marie Kieval (2020). On Thin Ice: Exploring Solutions for Climate- Induced Displacement in the Face of Disappearing Permafrost. Arctic Yearbook. Link
Victoria Herrman (2019). Climate Change Migration, Cultures, & Alaska’ Foreboding Ghost Village. The Arctic Institute. Link
Mari Lilleslåtten (2021). Indigenous voices are marginalised in national political communication. University of Oslo. Link
Matthew Eaton-Kent, Julia Himmrich, Benjamin Martill (2019). Siloed Thinking: Systemic Marginalisation in Canada's Indigenous Communities. London School of Economics and Political Science. Link
Matthew Eaton-Kent, Julia Himmrich, Benjamin Martill (2019). Siloed Thinking: Systemic Marginalisation in Canada's Indigenous Communities. London School of Economics and Political Science. Link
European Commission (2022). Governance of migrant integration in Sweden. Link
Magnus Dahlstedt, Anders Neergard (2016). Crisis of Solidarity? Changing Welfare and Migration Regimes in Sweden. Association for Critical Sociology. Link
With examples like Canada adopting an extensive adaptation strategy, it is likely that other Arctic countries will follow their lead. Still, without concrete information about their potential displacement, many local communities are unsure about their future. Meanwhile, refugees arriving in the northernmost countries need to be cared for as well.

This poses the question of how living conditions in the Arctic can be improved while also providing space for traditional living. Is it possible to reach an ideal outcome for all parties involved or are there compromises to be made along the way? What happens when a tipping point is reached, displacing multiple communities at once? And what role can the EU play, besides reducing its carbon emissions?
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Motion for a resolution
Submitted by:
Aram Bagdasarian (AM), Magali Batouche (FR), Inês Esteves (PT), Sophie Maria Faßhauer (DE), Leah Stella Israel (NL), Naz Izol (TR), Thomas Jack (LU), Nataly Kranou (CY), Kamila Lešková (CZ), Iivari Mantere (FI), Aitegin Naryn- baeva (SE), Andres Omiste (ES), Alexia Kyriaki Sextou (GR), Sofi Tirana (AL), Elisabeth Frauendorf (Chairperson, DE)
The European Youth Parliament aims to address the issue of incoming and outgoing Arctic climate refugees. We want to focus on protecting their human rights and dignity by taking a stance against xenophobia and prejudice. Through our commitment to the values of representation, humanity, and solidarity, we will support Internally Displaced People (IDP) and external refugees, by ensuring that they have access to the resources and socio-economic support needed to rebuild their livelihoods, preserve their cultural identity, and adapt to the ongoing climate crisis,

A. Emphasising the absence of preventative measures counteracting climate disaster,

B. Bearing in mind the absence of any legal framework related to addressing climate refugees and IDP, at a European level or otherwise, rendering it difficult for Arctic States to provide adequate support for displaced populations,

C. Concerned by the lack of monitoring of the movement of IDP,

D. Noting that 3,5 million external immigrants live in Nordic countries today,

E. Concerned by the lack of sustainable, affordable and especially adaptive housing suitable for long- term usage provided to displaced people,

F. Aware of the limited resources and harsh weather conditions in the Arctic,

G. Alarmed by the difficulties of immigrants getting into the work sector, leading to irregular income and long term disintegration,

H. Observing the existence of a variety of distinctive Indigenous groups with diverse needs and practices in the Arctic Circle,

I. Aware of the major legislative inefficiencies in protecting and preserving the cultural identity of IDPs when migrating and the erasure of folk customs differences,

J. Alarmed by the lack of involvement of IDP and climate refugees in the Member States’ policy-making processes, rendering it difficult for these groups to have an influence on matters concerning them,

K. Noting with concern the discrepancies in the treatment of climate refugees and displaced Indigenous populations among the Arctic States’ governments,

L. Regretting the existing discrimination among the general population towards Indigenous displaced communities in Arctic countries in the form of racial slurs and microaggressions,

K. Scrutinising the political disregard of migrants due to xenophobia expressed by rising extremist parties in Nordic countries;

1. Calls upon the European Migration Network (EMN) to further their research on migration with the aim of creating a better vision of the impacts of climate change on local populations and ecosystems, developing effective adaptation strategies that can be implemented at the local level;

2. Asks Arctic States to invest in early warning systems and disaster risk measures;

3. Calls upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to legally recognise “climate refugees” as a refugee status, thus deeming them valid for a refugee identity certificate for protected residence in new area of settlement in the case of emergency climate disasters;

4. Requests Arctic States to provide funding for climate-resilient infrastructure and stormwater drainage systems in order to anticipate, prepare, and adapt to changing climate conditions;

5. Proposes the European Commission to ensure the human security of incoming external and internal displaced people by setting up a fund for the allocation of housing;

6. Strongly welcomes Arctic States to insist on better international cooperation among each other regarding the allocation of climate refugees;

7. Requests the European fund for strategic investments (EFSI) to provide additional funds to European countries that host climate refugees in order to guarantee their security and supply shelters;

8. Recommends Arctic States in cooperation with the Joint IDP Profiling Service (JIPS) to oversee the integration of minority groups in their new environment in order to create a close relationship between government and minorities;

9. Calls upon the Arctic States to assist dislocated groups in their search for a location similar to their origin;

10. Suggests the Arctic Council to grant the Indigenous Peoples’ Secretariat (IPS) and Saami Council voting ability within decision-making procedures as a way of enhancing the active involvement of Indigenous People in the political scene;

11. Urges Arctic States to abide by the principles of equity and respect for all cultures by ensuring the accessibility of cultural heritage, and the diversity of cultural expression forms;

12. Urges Arctic States to use the resources of the Radicalisation Awareness Network to share information, firsthand accounts, and methods for preventing and fighting violent extremism in all of its forms.
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