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Chloé Anne Vlassopoulos

This chapter retraces the emergence of climate migration as a global issue. It examines the role played by different actors, ranging from scholars from environmental and migration studies, to operational institutions such as the International Organisation for Migration and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, among others. Vlassopoulos develops an insightful analysis on how migration was constructed, in the context of environmental disturbances and then climate change, as a political issue – or, alternatively, as a consequence of climate change, or as a possible solution to issues raised by climate change. The chapter discusses the recent re-interpretation of climate migration within the loss and damage workstream in terms of institutional mandate and the difficulty of promoting the issue and the role for climate change institutions such as the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism without disempowering migration institutions.

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Susan F. Martin

This chapter reviews proposals towards an extension of complementary protection to individuals displaced across international borders by the effects of climate change and other environmental drivers. In particular, it discusses the outcomes of the Nansen Initiative, an intergovernmental initiative that sought to promote the development of a protection agenda through a series of consultation conducted from 2012 to 2016 under the leadership of Walter Kälin. In terms of process, Section II notes some parallels between this initiative and the developments which led to the adoption of the guiding principles on internal displacement. Section III recounts the origins and outcomes of the Nansen Initiative’s Agenda for Protection and its successor, the Platform on Disaster Displacement. The following section looks more closely into the Nansen Initiative’s recommendations on humanitarian admissions and deferral of deportation, a centrepiece of its protection agenda. The concluding section outlines the strengths and weaknesses in this approach to protection as well as next steps in this process.

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Frank Biermann and Ingrid Boas

Climate change may compel millions of people, largely in Africa and Asia, to leave their homes to seek refuge in other places over the course of the century. Yet the current institutions, organizations and funding mechanisms, including new soft law initiatives, are not sufficiently equipped to deal with this. The situation calls for new governance. Following a review of academic and popular debates focussed on defining this issue as climate ‘refugees’ or ‘migrants’, we advance in this chapter a blueprint for a global governance architecture on the protection and voluntary resettlement of climate migrants. We argue against the extension of the definition of refugees under the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and discuss the limited use of soft law mechanisms as these are largely focussed on state responsibility. Key elements of our proposal are, instead, a new legal instrument that builds on the responsibility of the international community and is specifically tailored for the needs of climate migrants—a Protocol on Recognition, Protection and Resettlement of Climate Migrants to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—as well as a separate funding mechanism, a Climate Migrant Protection and Resettlement Fund.

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Ilona Millar and Kylie Wilson

In recent years, the issue of climate change-induced human displacement has been a topic of considerable legal scholarship. However, many proposals to address the problem have been criticized on the basis that international refugee law or a new rights-based international legal framework would not be well suited to respond to the particular displacement challenges associated with climate change. Meanwhile, within the international negotiations for a post-2020 climate change treaty, developing countries have proposed a dedicated climate change displacement facility. Although such a facility was not established as part of the Paris Agreement adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2015, climate change displacement has been included as part of the work program of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage Associated with Climate Change Impacts (Warsaw International Mechanism). This chapter argues that, building on the work of the Warsaw International Mechanism, the proposal for a climate change displacement facility under the UNFCCC provides a politically feasible, short- to medium-term international response to an issue that is unable to garner traction in other legal fora. This chapter also explores the potential mandate, functions and sources of funding for such a facility.

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Edited by Benoît Mayer and François Crépeau

This comprehensive Research Handbook provides an overview of the debates on how the law does, and could, relate to migration exacerbated by climate change. It contains conceptual chapters on the relationship between climate change, migration and the law, as well as doctrinal and prospective discussions regarding legal developments in different domestic contexts and in international governance.
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Carol Farbotko

How are ideas about ‘climate migration’ produced? In particular, in what ways do ideas about climate migration coalesce into ostensible truths in particular contexts? How are they also contested as misrepresentation, particularly among climate migrants themselves? This chapter examines ideas about climate migration, as well as the mobilities that such ideas purport to describe and govern, as performative and praxiographic. It examines a range of sometimes contradictory socio-ecological relations that are creating the conditions by which the realities of particular populations – both vulnerable and bureaucratic, mobile and governing – are experienced and understood. It concludes by observing that when the everyday lives and voiced concerns of migrants are apprehended, a more nuanced representation of the complex context of governance is possible. On the spectrum away from ‘misrepresentation’ and towards ‘representation’, however, it is not just complexity but also agency which must be taken into account.

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Elizabeth Ferris

The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (Guiding Principles), presented to the UN Human Rights Commission in 1998 and endorsed by the Global Summit in 2005, provide a widely-accepted normative framework for protecting the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Given the definition of IDPs used in the Guiding Principles, those displaced by the effects of climate change who remain within the borders of their countries are considered as IDPs and the Guiding Principles are thus applicable to them. After a brief overview of the Guiding Principles, this chapter considers the ways in which they have been used to uphold the rights of those displaced by sudden-onset disasters and then turns to the more difficult issue of their relevance to those displaced by other forms of environmental change associated with climate change. A particularly difficult issue is the case of individuals who leave their communities because of loss of livelihoods due to the effects of climate change. This difficulty stems from the broader question of determining causality – which affects other forms of the climate-change migration nexus as well. While it is argued here that the Guiding Principles are and should be the primary normative framework in upholding the rights of those displaced internally by the effects of climate change, there are two areas where further elaboration is needed in order to apply to the specific characteristics of climate change-induced displacement. First, durable solutions, particularly when return is not an option because of the effects of climate change. Secondly, issues around accountability, given the fact that responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions can be determined. These questions are further discussed in the following sections.

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Erika Pires Ramos and Fernanda de Salles Cavedon-Capdeville

Latin America is particularly exposed to climate change due to its geographical and environmental configuration, socioeconomic vulnerabilities and population groups which strongly depend on the environment, as indigenous peoples and other traditional communities. The impacts of disasters and climate change are an important cause of internal and cross-border displacement. These impacts tend to increase, intensifying human mobility in the region. In this context, this chapter aims to identify, on one hand, the lack of specific norms and guidelines on environmental migration at the regional and sub-regional levels and on the other hand, the inclusion of this topic in the role of some regional organizations. Thus, coordination between existing normative and institutional frameworks on migration, disasters and climate change and the adjustment of policies and governance structures on regional and sub-regional level emerges as a possible strategy to face the challenges presented by environmental migration in Latin America. In this sense, good practices and national experiences could give a relevant contribution to the building process of protection standards, policies and regional cooperation in this topic.

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François Gemenne

There are plenty of reasons, and not just legal reasons, to avoid using the term ‘climate refugee’. I am well aware of them. Without denying that these reasons exist, this chapter argues that there are also at least two good reasons to use the term ‘refugee’ – not in the legal sense, of course, but in the sense to which people relate when using that term, as a reflection of the plight of the individuals in question. And this is not just a matter of semantics. We should talk of climate refugees, this chapter submits, because climate change is a form of political persecution, and because the term ‘migrant’ has sadly become a life-threatening label, in a world marred by populism and xenophobia.

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Gervais Appave, Alice Sironi, Mariam Traore Chazalnoel, Dina Ionesco and Daria Mokhnacheva

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been working on migration and displacement in connection with environmental and climatic changes since the early 1990s. It has established a comprehensive programme of work at legal, policy, and operational levels. The extensive and comprehensive nature of IOM’s work on climate and environmental migration and displacement, spanning 25 years, has given IOM a global leading voice on policy and legal questions related to climate migration and displacement. IOM’s three institutional objectives are: (1) to prevent forms of forced migration linked to environmental and climate change; (2) to assist, protect and reduce vulnerabilities of migrants; and (3) to facilitate migration as an adaptation strategy. In carrying out activities aimed at achieving these objectives, the Organization supports both migrants and its Member States facing increasing challenges in developing solutions to climate migration and displacement, including in the search for appropriate legal solutions.The chapter is divided in three main parts, framed by an introduction and a conclusion. It first outlines the current state of discussions on terminology and explains how, in our analysis, they reflect changes in perspective on the protection of climate change migrants. This section also explores the role played by IOM in this debate. The second section analyses the parallel unfolding of the discussions on the legal framework to protect those moving in the context of climate change. It highlights an emerging inclination to focus on ‘soft law’ rather than ‘hard law.’ This has given rise to a number of State-led consensus-building initiatives that IOM has supported together with other partners. The chapter ends by framing IOM’s role and perspectives in responding to, but also in moving beyond, the legal debates around climate migration. It points to some of the recent developments in the Organization’s place and role within the international community, and discusses the impact that these developments may have on the Organization’s work on migration and climate change