Climate Law and Developing Countries
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Climate Law and Developing Countries

Legal and Policy Challenges for the World Economy

Edited by Benjamin J. Richardson, Yves Le Bouthillier, Heather McLeod-Kilmurray and Stepan Wood

This timely book examines the legal and policy challenges in international, regional and national settings, faced by developing countries in mitigating and adapting to climate change.
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Chapter 4: Promoting Justice within the International Legal System: Prospects for Climate Refugees

Angela Williams


Angela Williams* THE PROBLEM OF CLIMATE CHANGE DISPLACEMENT 1. Climate change creates and contributes to numerous problems worldwide cutting across economic, social, cultural, technological and environmental dimensions. One of the many consequences of our rapidly changing climate is a significant increase in forced migration and displacement as anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions alter the atmosphere and the global environment within which we all live. The emergence of so-called ‘climate change refugees’ and the subsequent recognition of this rapidly escalating phenomenon present an important challenge to be addressed by all states. Whilst discussion continues regarding how such displaced individuals, communities or (in some situations) entire nation states should be legally recognised, the objective of this chapter is to examine how the problem might be best managed through justice discourse. Climate change displacement creates enormous injustice and inequity around the world and moreover is facilitated by unfair and inequitable international legal and economic systems. So how might notions of justice be promoted for those affected by climate change displacement? And in what way might the international legal system be able to contribute to a fairer and more just outcome for all concerned? The many and varied consequences of climate change are now widely recognised and comprehensively documented (for example Stern, 2007; IPCC, 2008; and more generally Monbiot, 2006; Lynas, 2007). In particular, the link between climate change and environmental vulnerability has been the focus of much attention in light of the increased prevalence of droughts, desertification, rising sea levels and extreme weather patterns...

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