The International regulation of persons displaced by climate change

Maguire, R. & Kruger, L. (2011) The International regulation of persons displaced by climate change. In Drowning Island Nations: Legal Implications and Remedies, 23-26 May 2011, New York. (Unpublished)


It is certain that there will be changes in environmental conditions across the globe as a result of climate change. Such changes will require the building of biological, human and infrastructure resilience. In some instances the building of such resilience will be insufficient to deal with extreme changes in environmental conditions and legal frameworks will be required to provide recognition and support for people dislocated because of environmental change. Such dislocation may occur internally within the country of original origin or externally into another State’s territory. International and national legal frameworks do not currently recognise or assist people displaced as a result of environmental factors including displacement occurring as a result of climate change. Legal frameworks developed to deal with this issue will need to consider the legal rights of those people displaced and the legal responsibilities of those countries required to respond to such displacement. The objective of this article is to identify the most suitable international institution to host a program addressing climate displacement.

There are a number of areas of international law that are relevant to climate displacement, including refugee law, human rights law and international environmental law. These regimes, however, were not designed to protect people relocating as a result of environmental change. As such, while they indirectly may be of relevance to climate displacement, they currently do nothing to directly address this complex issue. In order to determine the most appropriate institution to address and regulate climate displacement, it is imperative to consider issues of governance. This paper seeks to examine this issue and determine whether it is preferable to place climate displacement programs into existing international legal frameworks or whether it is necessary to regulate this area in an entirely new institution specifically designed to deal with the complex and cross-cutting issues surrounding the topic.

Commentators in this area have proposed three different regulatory models for addressing climate displacement. These models include: (a) Expand the definition of refugee under the Refugee Convention to encompass persons displaced by climate change; (b) Implement a new stand alone Climate Displacement Convention; and (c) Implement a Climate Displacement Protocol to the UNFCCC. This article will examine each of these proposed models against a number of criteria to determine the model that is most likely to address the needs and requirements of people displaced by climate change. It will also identify the model that is likely to be most politically acceptable and realistic for those countries likely to attract responsibilities by its implementation. In order to assess whether the rights and needs of the people to be displaced are to be met, theories of procedural, distributive and remedial justice will be used to consider the equity of the proposed schemes. In order to consider the most politically palatable and realistic scheme, reference will be made to previous state practice and compliance with existing obligations in the area. It is suggested that the criteria identified by this article should underpin any future climate displacement instrument.

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ID Code: 57943
Item Type: Conference Item (Poster)
Refereed: No
Keywords: climate, displacement, protection, international regulation, justice
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > Environmental and Natural Resources Law (180111)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > LAW AND LEGAL STUDIES (180000) > LAW (180100) > International Law (excl. International Trade Law) (180116)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 Please consult the author.
Deposited On: 07 Mar 2013 22:30
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2013 22:30

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