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James C. Hathaway

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Siobhán McInerney-Lankford

This chapter investigates the potential relevance of international human rights law to climate change and migration. As Siobhán McInerney-Lankford provocatively suggests, existing international law provides multiple entry-points to respond to the plight of individuals displaced either internally or through international borders as a result of climate change. The principle of equality and non-discrimination is of particular relevance because, in many cases, the populations most affected by climate change – those who have no choice but to migrate – are already populations subject to multiple forms of discrimination. Through the lens of this principle, Siobhán McInerney-Lankford explores the significance of the obligation of States to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of climate migrants, showing that, despite important challenges (e.g. the contested extraterritorial application of human rights), international human rights law does provide at least general principles to inform responses to climate migration and, perhaps, guide further legal developments.

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Benoît Mayer

Under the international law of State responsibility, a State must pay reparation for the injury caused to other States by its internationally wrongful acts. This chapter questions whether this rule could provide grounds for normative arguments relating to the treatment of migrants in the context of climate change. It argues that it could not. Certainly, States bear some responsibilities, not just when and inasmuch as they fail to comply with their obligations under specific treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol, but also when they infringe norms of general international law such as the no-harm principle. States responsible for a breach of a primary international obligation bear a secondary obligation to make reparation, in particular by compensating the injured State(s). This, however, does not justify the imposition of specific obligations on the developing States affected by climate change to adopt particular policies on ‘climate migration’ beyond international human rights law. Measures allowing for the resettlement of foreign citizens as a form of reparation, on the other hand, appear unlikely to provide an effective protection to the human rights of the individuals concerned.

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Calum T.M. Nicholson

Increasingly, social science looks to be conducted through thematically-oriented fields such as ‘migration studies’ and ‘development studies’. This should not come as a surprise, given that specialisation and ‘expertise’ are now well established as shibboleths of our contemporary political life in democratic contexts – itself more technocratic and less ideological than it was in the twentieth century. As universities find themselves needing to demonstrate ‘outcomes’ and ‘impact’, it is perhaps inevitable that the content of research begins to reflect this technocratic turn so characteristic of the context in which the research is conducted. One result of all this is the proliferation of new explanatory concepts, which are held to be a prerequisite to both understanding and changing the world we live in, and as such are assumed to have an inherent utility. One such example is ‘climate-induced migration’, a term that gained significant currency in the past decade, linking as it did two grand themes of contemporary concern. Despite the currency of the term (and others that imply the same causal understanding), it is one that, on close examination, remains conceptually incoherent. This chapter does three things. First, it outlines the surface pattern and underlying structure of that incoherence. Second, it argues that, far from suffering problems peculiar to this field, the pattern and structure of the incoherence is one replicated across other categories endemic in and characteristic of our technocratic era. Third, it suggests an alternative approach to research, thus transcending the problem of this incoherence. This approach holds that the resolution of our predicament lies not in thinking different things (i.e. in new thematic categories), but in thinking differently. Explaining what this means will be the broader purpose of the chapter.

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Robert McLeman

This chapter reviews how relatively common climate-related phenomena such as floods, droughts, and extreme weather events influence migration and mobility patterns in vulnerable populations. Scientists expect that anthropogenic climate change will exacerbate existing environmental risks in many parts of the world and thereby increasing the frequency and scale of future environmental migration. Three recent examples of environmental migration – drought migration in the Sahel, flood-related migration in Bangladesh, and hurricane-related migration in Central America – are used to illustrate the complexity of interactions between climate and migration and the diversity of possible outcomes. Climate does not affect migration patterns in simple push-pull fashion; rather, migration outcomes are mediated by intervening economic, social, and political forces that affect the ability of exposed populations to adapt to climate-related threats to homes and livelihoods. With growing numbers of people living in areas highly exposed to the physical risks of climate change, there is growing urgency for policymakers, the legal community, and civil society to begin creating plans and establishing priorities for action.

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Sébastien Jodoin, Kathryn Hansen and Caylee Hong

This chapter analyses responses to climate change and their impacts on the human rights of displaced populations. As such, this chapter will chiefly examine issues of internal displacement and forced evictions, to be distinguished from the larger concern of climate-induced migration and debates about a possible concept of climate ‘refugees’. Section 2 reviews the risks of displacement associated with three diverse types of responses to climate change: first, displacement due to the Site C Clean Energy Project, a dam and hydroelectric generating station in northern British Columbia (BC), Canada; second, forced evictions in the Cherangani Hills, Kenya resulting from the implementation of REDD+ initiatives; and third, planned relocation programmes in the Republic of Maldives (Maldives) developed to adapt to extreme weather events like tsunamis. Section 3 discusses the legal parameters of forced evictions in international human rights law. Section 4 concludes by setting out how a rights-based approach may assist in creating responses to climate change that are rooted in international human rights norms.

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Alex Randall

This chapter examines to whom the UK media turn for information when they are writing about climate-linked migration. This is a vital question as most of the general public understand this issue through the media. This chapter analyses hundreds of newspaper stories about climate-linked migration to examine which people and institutions have become key sources for journalists. The results reveal that a relatively small group of people dominate media coverage as sources. Further, this lack of diversity in sources is created by the very narrow focus the UK media takes when covering climate-linked migration. Press coverage over the past decade has focused on a small number of high-profile cases of climate-linked migration. This chapter makes the case that to improve the wider public’s understanding of the issue academics and civil society groups must engage with journalists and writes to encourage a more nuanced understanding of the issue, and a wider array of sources in their writing.

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Katrina M. Wyman

This chapter surveys the philosophically oriented literature analyzing the duties of states to climate migrants. More specifically, it discusses the responses that have been given to three questions: (1) What is the ethical basis on which countries are obligated to assist climate migrants from other states? (2) What is the scope of the rights that climate migrants enjoy to resettle elsewhere, in particular is the right an individual or a collective right to resettle? And (3) how should obligations to climate migrants be allocated among countries? The chapter concludes by emphasizing that the existing literature is focused on the obligations owed to, and the rights enjoyed by, migrants from the small island states that are existentially threatened by climate change. The focus of the literature should be broadened to consider the responsibilities that states owe to migrants in other situations.

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Christel Cournil

This chapter reflects on the limited relevance of the international protection of refugees. It examines in particular the key text that is the 1951 ‘Geneva’ Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, showing that this treaty is unable to address the issue of environmental migration although it may imply some possible approaches by analogy. The Geneva Convention was adopted in a different context, with little awareness of environmental factors of migration. Section I contrasts current circumstances from the context of the Geneva Convention, showing the difficulty of adapting the Geneva Convention to environmental factors of migration. Section II looks at the obstacles resulting from the individual determination of refugee status. Section III highlights the difficulty of recognizing a form of ‘persecution’ when individuals are displaced by environmental factors. Section IV recalls that the protection of refugees only applies to individuals who cross international borders, whereas environmental factors that force individuals to flee do not often force them to cross an international border. As a conclusion, individuals displaced in the context of climate change or more generally by environmental factors, even when they are ‘forced’ to flee and are in an urgent need for international protection, do not generally qualify for international protection under international refugee law.

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Ademola Oluborode Jegede

Due to the adverse effects of climate change and response projects under the REDD+ and Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) initiatives on their lands, indigenous peoples are vulnerable to migration. International human rights instruments developed under the aegis of United Nations (UN) are inadequate to meet the challenge of migration of indigenous peoples posed by climate change and response measures. The instruments make no specific link between climate change and migration and they fail to define concrete obligations of international agencies to establish appropriate remedy mechanisms. This chapter discusses the link of climate change to the migration of indigenous peoples and the gaps in UN international human rights instruments and treaty bodies for their protection. It then argues key provisions in the Kampala Convention of the African Union (AU) which can serve as important normative lessons to any global instrument that will address the link of climate change to the migration of indigenous peoples.