Blue Ribbon Panel Presents Ground-Breaking Recommendations to President on the Climate Crisis and Global Migration

A Task Force of prominent former U.S. government and UN officials, NGO leaders, and climate experts today called for dramatic and unprecedented policy measures to address the global climate crisis and its impact on migration.

The Task Force report responds to a February 4 Executive Order that directs National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to deliver options to the President by August “for protection and resettlement of individuals displaced directly or indirectly from climate change” as well as options for policy measures on a range of related objectives.

At least tens of millions of people will be displaced over the next two to three decades due in large measure to disaster and other environmental changes affected by climate. From Haiti and Honduras, to Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, and in thousands of communities in both the Global South and Global North, disasters affected by climate change are leading to protracted displacement.

Eric Schwartz, co-chair of the Task Force and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, said:

The magnitude and scope of the climate crisis demands dramatic policy measures, including historic increases in U.S. support for disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation and new protections for refugees and others who will be on the move. The challenge is daunting, but not beyond our collective capacity—the issue will be our will to act.

The Task Force first urges President Biden and his administration to support new commitments to reduce risks and adapt to the inevitable consequences of climate change: 

The Task Force recommends—

  • Disaster Risk Reduction: A commitment to provide $1 billion in support for global disaster risk reduction—resulting in an increase in U.S. support by over $500 million annually—and support for a new Global Risk Reduction and Resilience fund.    
  • Climate Change Adaptation: An increase by 60 percent, to up to $4 billion, in funding for international climate change programming, with a focus on climate change adaptation, as well as targeted development assistance and financing local communities in affected countries.

The Task Force also urges a new and substantial commitment to protection of the millions of people who will be on the move in the years and the decades to come. The Task Force recommends—

  • Refugees: New measures to protect and resettle refugees who are coming from climate-impacted regions;
  • Others forced to migrate due to climate: Resettlement and asylum for forced migrants who do not meet the refugee definition but who are unable to return safely to their countries of origin due to disaster resulting from the effects of climate change.
  • Temporary Protected Status: Use of TPS to protect those victims of disasters exacerbated by the effects of climate change, as well as legislation that would authorize the administration to provide a pathway to permanent residence and citizenship for groups who have had TPS status for more than five years.
  • Labor and family visas: Expansion of traditional migration pathways for labor, education, and family reunification to respond to migration pressures resulting from climate change.
  • Those displaced internally around the world due to climate change: Administration efforts to encourage the UN to adopt the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, to support the appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary General on Internal Displacement, and to encourage World Bank efforts to direct funding to support internally displaced people affected by climate change.
  • Planned relocation: Provision of international financial support to international planned relocation initiatives, support for capacity building and training programs for governments likely to face relocation requirements, and the strengthening of support to planned relocation efforts within the United States.
  • Enhanced global coordination: administration efforts to promote the establishment of an empowered, global, multi-stakeholder platform, or standing forum, on climate change and displacement, focusing on funding, and best practices around prevention, protection and migration.

Read the full Task Force report here

Members of the Task Force: 

Nisha Agarwal
Deputy Executive Director, International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP)

T. Alexander Aleinikoff
Director, Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility, The New School
Former UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees
Former General Counsel, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), Department of Justice

J. Brian Atwood
Visiting Scholar Watson Institute, Brown University
Former Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
Former Under Secretary of State

Reuben Brigety
Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of the South
Former U.S. Representative to the African Union
Permanent U.S. Representative to the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa

Elizabeth Ferris (co-chair)
Research Professor, Institute for the Study of International Migration, Georgetown University
Expert Advisory Group Member, United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement

Lauren Herzer Risi
Director, Environmental Change and Security Program, Wilson Center

Mark Hetfield
President and CEO, HIAS (founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society)

Rev. Mary Katherine Morn
President and CEO, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

Kayly Ober
Senior Advocate and Program Manager, Climate Displacement Program, Refugees International

Maria Otero
Former Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights
Former Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs
Former President and CEO, ACCION International

Anne C. Richard
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration
Former Director, Secretary of State’s Office of Resources, Plans and Policy

Richard Santos
President and CEO, Church World Service

Alex de Sherbinin
Senior Research Scientist and Associate Director for Science Applications, Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), The Earth Institute, Columbia University  

Eric P. Schwartz (co-chair)
President, Refugees International
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration

Maureen White
Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Institute, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University
Former Senior Advisor on Humanitarian Issues, Office of the Special Representation to Afghanistan and Pakistan

For Media:

For more information or to schedule an interview with one of the Task Force members about their recommendation, please contact Refugees International Director of Communications Sarah Sheffer at or +1 202 540 7029.



PHOTO CAPTION: Local villagers seen on the dried river bed in Satkhira, Bangladesh. (Zakir Hossain Chowdhury / Barcro / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)