Responses to Climate Migration

Author: Katrina Wyman

harvardelrIn recent years there have been suggestions that climate change might generate 200 million or more migrants by 2050. In response to these suggestions, and concerns that existing law and policy will be inadequate to deal with the expected displacement, there recently have been several proposals for new legally binding multilateral instruments specifically addressing climate migration.

This Article makes three contributions to the nascent literature on the legal and policy responses to migration induced by climate change. First, it identifies the two principal gaps in existing law and policy that underpin to a significant extent the recent proposals for a new binding multilateral instrument, describing these gaps as the “rights” gap and the “funding” gap. Second, this Article analyzes three of the leading proposals for a new binding multilateral instrument. It identifies the ways that these proposals would respond to the rights and funding gaps and emphasizes the proposals’ limitations. Third, this Article emphasizes that addressing climate migration ultimately requires increasing the resilience of communities especially vulnerable to climate change.

It then identifies ways to mitigate the effects of the rights and funding gaps by reducing existing vulnerabilities to climate change, without a new binding multilateral instrument. While a series of measures relying largely on existing legal and policy tools may seem less satisfying than proposals for a new binding multilateral instrument, these measures are more likely to address the concerns about human vulnerability to climate
change that the proposals for new binding multilateral instruments have admirably highlighted.

This article is available in PDF from the Harvard ELR here.

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