Interdisciplinary Workshop on Climate Related Mobility in the Nordic Region

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This text was written by Florien van Weerelt.

On 8 and 9 December 2022, the Nordic Network on Climate Related Displacement and Mobility held its second workshop entitled “Climate Related Mobility in the Nordic Region: Internal and International Dimensions” in Lund, Sweden. The purpose of the workshop was to continue and broaden discussions initiated in an earlier workshop and convene a select group of scholars interested in contributing to an edited volume. With generous support from the Joint Committee for Nordic Research Councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NOS-HS), the workshop was organised by the Raoul Wallenberg Institute together with the University of Copenhagen.

The 2-day workshop prompted dynamic engagement with various narratives around, as well as concrete responses to, climate related mobility in the Nordic context. Participating scholars presented both empirical and theoretical research, with most contributions addressing two overarching questions, namely:

  • What does “climate related mobility” mean in the Nordic region?
  • How have Nordic countries responded to such mobility?

The highly interdisciplinary group consisting of international lawyers, political scientists, geographers and experts in disaster risk management and climate change adaptation helped to draw out the complexity of the issue.

What does “Climate Related Mobility” Mean in the Nordic Region?

Climate-related mobility in the Nordic context encompasses both movement into and within the Nordic region. Underscoring the diversity of these experiences, workshop participants presented a broad range of research, including evidence that:

  • People unable to remain in, or return to, their country of origin due to the adverse effects of climate change submit claims for international protection in Nordic countries.
  • People living in the Nordic region do not always relocate away from risk-prone areas, and (im)mobility occurs along a spectrum of agency.
  • Indigenous peoples are moving to different areas within and across Nordic countries in response to changing grazing conditions and harmful climate policies (often termed “green colonialism”).

Nordic Responses to Climate Related Mobility

With increasing evidence that climate related mobility is already impacting the Nordic region, several participating scholars examined to what extent Nordic countries have engaged with such mobility in both their internal and external policies. Their findings revealed that Nordic engagement with climate related mobility has primarily taken place at the international level. For example, Norway played a prominent role in the development of the Nansen Initiative, and later, the Platform on Disaster Displacement. Likewise, Denmark was the first country to pledge its support for a global loss and damage fund.

Several scholars discussed the minimal engagement with climate related mobility in domestic law and policy. For example, multiple references were made to the limited opportunities for international protection in the context of climate change. While domestic legislation in both Finland and Sweden used to extend complementary protection to persons displaced by environmental disasters, these provisions were repealed in 2016 and 2021 respectively.

Next Steps for the Network

The 2-day workshop on climate related mobility into and within the Nordic region was dynamic and engaging, with participants leading insightful and thought-provoking discussions. Building on these discussions, participating scholars are currently working towards the publication of an edited volume. By taking an interdisciplinary approach, the edited volume will seek to foster further interdisciplinary academic and policy engagement with these issues.

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