The International Legal Challenges of Climate-Induced Migration: Proposal for an International Legal Framework

64 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2011 Last revised: 12 Apr 2011

See all articles by Benoit Mayer

Benoit Mayer

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Law

Date Written: February 5, 2011

Abstract

Tens and maybe hundreds of millions of people have been or are about to be displaced because of rising sea levels or land degradation induced by global warming. In some cases, internal displacement of the population is not possible, either because their territory may become entirely uninhabitable (e.g.: the Maldives) or because the unaffected part of their territory is not able to absorb the whole displaced population (e.g.: Bangladesh). The increasing masses of "climate migrants" cannot benefit from any appropriate protection under today’s international law, as they do not fulfill legal conditions to be treated as "refugees." The vulnerability of climate migrants is contrary to the humanitarian conception of Human Rights and goes against the principle of common but differentiated responsibility for climate change. An international legal framework on climate change-induced migrations should be established as soon as possible to provide a sustainable solution, protect affected individuals and communities, and reconcile international funding and local decision-making. It would be unlikely that an international treaty could receive a sufficient number of ratifications to be efficient and, additionally, it would not be able to sufficiently take into account the specificity of each migration scenario. Therefore, this paper proposes a framework that could be adopted by a United Nations General Assembly resolution. The proposed resolution would recognize climate migrants’ fundamental rights, but could also create an agency in charge of facilitating and supervising bilateral or regional ad hoc negotiations on the resettlement of the most affected populations.

Keywords: migration, displacement, climate, climate change, relocation, refugee, climate refugee, environmental refugee, migrant, climate migrant, environmental migrant

JEL Classification: K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Mayer, Benoit, The International Legal Challenges of Climate-Induced Migration: Proposal for an International Legal Framework (February 5, 2011). Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy, Vol. 22, No. 3, 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1755622

Benoit Mayer (Contact Author)

The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) - Faculty of Law ( email )

6/F, Lee Shau Kee Building
Shatin, New Territories
Hong Kong

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