Climate Change Displacement to Refuge (E. Burleson)


Elizabeth Burleson


Migration, climate change law, human rights, refugees


Migration is one of the oldest coping strategies for dealing with environmental change. International climate negotiations have focused on such complex issues as mitigation, adaptation, environmentally sound technology transfer, and financial mechanisms. Calling for the humanitarian impacts of climatechange to be addressed, eighteen aid organizations have formed the Inter-Agency Standing Committee to advocate for the coordination of human rights and climatechange law and policy. The Norwegian Refugee Council notes that “[m]ore than 20 million people have been displaced by climate-related sudden-onset natural disasters in 2008 alone.”Member states to the U.N. Convention on ClimateChange (UNFCCC) have committed to draft an agreement to address post-Kyoto Protocol commitments under the UNFCCC and an array of climate-related concerns. Beyond mitigation, adaptation, technology, and funding, other crosscutting climate issues continue to challenge the international community. The demographics, economies, and geographic features of given countries impact their priorities in the ongoing negotiations. Irrespective of the likely impacts of climatechange, everyone has a vested interest in maintaining international peace and security. Migration is a factor that the U.N. Security Council regularly uses to determine whether a situation constitutes a threat to international peace and security. Regardless of the means by which agreement is reached, adaptation to climate change should be implemented as soon as possible.
This Essay analyzes the interaction between international human rights law and climate change law. Part II discusses climate-induced migration, human rights law, and refugee status. Part III considers the role of the Security Council in climate-induced insecurity. Part IV concludes that maintaining international peace and security requires timely codification of climate measures that address ecomigration.


(2010) 25 Journal of Environmental Law and Litigation 19


Climate Change Displacement to Refuge