Climate change and displacement: protecting ‘climate refugees’ within a framework of justice and human rights

Abstract

One of the far-reaching consequences of climate change relates to the forced displacement of people. Climate-induced migration is a very complex issue. The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants noted the varied reasons for migration as being armed conflict, poverty, food insecurity, persecution, terrorism, human rights violations, climate change and natural disasters. Despite the recognition in the very first IPCC report in 1990 that the greatest single impact of climate change could be on human migration, it took climate negotiators over two decades to include displacement in climate documents. This article discusses complexity, scale and displacement scenarios, paying particular attention to the plight of small island states and to the climate-conflict-displacement nexus. It analyses the legal regime applicable to political refugees under international law and the current legal lacuna with regard to climate refugees. It surveys recent developments including the Global Compact on Migration, and the Task Force on Climate Displacement. This article argues that while current human rights law provides some protection, it is insufficient, and that the international community should take urgent action to design a legal regime to protect the rights of climate displacees. This is especially true of inhabitants of small island states who will be forced to move because their states are ‘disappearing’. The article argues that major emitters owe a legal duty to help climate displacees and especially the inhabitants of small island states.

Citation

Atapattu, Sumudu. (2020). Climate change and displacement: protecting ‘climate refugees’ within a framework of justice and human rights. Journal of Human Rights and the Environment. 11. 86-113. 10.4337/jhre.2020.01.04.

Author(s)

Sumudu Atapattu

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Climate Change, Human Rights, and Forced Migration: Implications for International Law

Abstract

This article focuses on one result of climate change: displacement and forced migration caused by climate change. As the IPCC noted in 1990, the greatest single impact of climate change could be on human migration – with millions of people displaced by shoreline erosion, coastal flooding, and agricultural disruption. This article identifies migration as an extreme form of adaptation, which in certain instances, is the only option available. This article also considers the challenges that forced migration caused by climate change poses for international law. It discusses the present international legal framework governing refugees and internally displaced persons and analyzes some of the proposals which have been advanced in relation to “environmentally displaced persons” and “climate refugees.”

Citation

Atapattu, Sumudu. "Climate Change, Human Rights, and Forced Migration: Implications for International Law." Wisconsin International Law Journal 27, no. 3 (2009): 636.

Author(s)

Sumudu Atapattu

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Conservation-induced Displacement: Recent Perspectives from India (G. Shahabuddin, P.L. Bhamidipati)

Authors Ghazala Shahabuddin and Padmasai Lakshmi Bhamidipati Keywords Conservation, Displacement, India Abstract Environmental Justice is the essential peer-reviewed journal that explores the equitable treatment of all people, especially minority and low-income populations, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Published bimonthly Citation (2014) 7(5) Environmental Justice 122-129 Paper […]

Climate-Induced Community Relocations: Creating an Adaptive Governance Framework Based in Human Rights Doctrine (R. Bronen)

Author(s) Robin Bronen Keywords climigration, migration, climate change, displacement, climate refugees, southern hemisphere, global warming, ecology, humanitarian crisis, indigenous communities, Arctic, disaster relief Abstract The specter of millions of people fleeing their homes because of climate change has sparked an international debate about creating human rights protections for climate refugees. Though scholars and journalists have […]

The Case of Awas Tingni v. Nicaragua: A New Step in the International Law of Indigenous Peoples (S. J. Anaya and C. Grossman)

Author(s) S. James Anaya and Claudio Grossman Keywords indigenous communities, Nicaragua, Mayagna, sumo, environmental protection, equality, land rights, America, human rights systems, Awas Tingni, international law, logging, preservation of culture, natural resources, developing nations, displacement, sustainable development Abstract The people of Awas Tingni did not set about to forge an international legal precedent with implications […]