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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The law on climate-related migration and displacement is notable for its paucity. Despite the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) early and repeated statements regarding climate-change impacts on human migration, once qualifying it as the ‘greatest single impact of climate change’, the last quarter century of climate-change law- and policy-making has not fostered robust governance of the emerging phenomenon. In fact, it was not until two decades after the IPCC’s initial statement that the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change addressed this kind of migration formally in its Cancún Decision. While most of the climate-induced migration and displacement forecasted will spur internal displacement, cross-border migration presents some of the most confounding challenges for migration and displacement management. This chapter presents the international law related to cross-border migration—and to a lesser extent internal displacement—as it currently stands.
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.