Climate Change and Human Displacement

Maguire, Rowena (2011) Climate Change and Human Displacement. In IUCN Environmental Law Conference, 2011, Port Elizabeth, South Africa. (Unpublished)

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This paper will focus on the legal issues associated with people displaced as a result of water scarcity. Human displacement can lead to internal displacement (displacement of people within their country) and external displacement (displacement of people into another country). If the displacement takes place as a result of climate change these people may be referred to as climate refugees. The majority of work on climate refugees has focused on those people that will lose their homes as a result of sea –level rise. The number of people that could be displaced as a result of prolonged drought and lack of adequate water supplies is likely to be far more significant in number. There are estimates that around 2.8 billion people will suffer water shortages by 2025 and many of these people are at increased risk of internal or external displacement.

Certain groups are more likely to be displaced as a result of prolonged drought or water scarcity. These groups include indigenous and minorities groups living in areas that are more susceptible to climate change and groups living in areas with a history of water shortage and supply issues. People displaced as a result of water scarcity are at increased risks of malnutrition and of dehydration. Furthermore the lack of adequate water supplies in such areas increases the risk and spread of disease among the population. In certain instances internal and external displacement may lead to escalation of conflict and competition for water resources in newly settled territories. This paper will use case studies from Australia (indigenous groups and rural landholders) and East Africa (Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya) to demonstrate the significance of human displacement arising as a result of water scarcity.

Climate adaptation policy frameworks will need to address a number of legal issues, arising as a result of climate displacement from water scarcity. There are a number of unresolved legal issues for both categories of environmental displaced people. The major legal issue for externally environmentally displaced people is lack of international recognition and support for these people. The Climate Change Convention, the Refugee Convention, the Desertification Convention and Human Rights instruments all fail to provide recognition for people externally displaced as a result of environmental conditions.

Similarly there is a lack of legal recognition and legal support mechanisms to assist those people internally displaced by environmental conditions. The lack of developed environmental rights in most countries contributes to this problem. Polices and governance frameworks must be put in place which aims to prevent such displacement through programs identifying populations at risk and instigating damage mitigation and relocation programs. In addition there are a number of legal issues which may arise such as; rights of compensation, property and tenure disputes, increases on the water demand and environmental degradation in places of relocation and jurisdictional issues arising in federal countries. This paper will provide an overview of the legal issues at the international and national levels arising as a result of climate displacement from water scarcity.

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ID Code: 57954
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: No
Keywords: Climate Displacment, Environmental Displacment, International Protection
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 2011 the author.
Deposited On: 08 Mar 2013 06:59
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2013 12:43

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