Welcome to our final day of the PERN Cyberseminar on Refugees and the Environment.
Victor's remarks focus on the legal question of "climate refugees" in East Africa, a region with large concentrations of legally designated refugees (i.e. recognized by UNHCR), and a growing number of people displaced by climate related hazards, who are crossing international borders.
We're so pleased to have Victor, an expert on refugee law, to reflect on the issue of "climate refugees," a perennial discussion in the PERN community. Historically, the "climate refugee" concept has been critiqued for confusing two key policy challenges: 1) climate-migrants as a category of "distress migration" that requires special humanitarian intervention; and 2) refugees as an exceptionally vulnerable population meriting internationally protected legal status. Practitioners, policy-makers, agency officials, and scholars have been sensitive to this composite concept. Ultimately, refugees are an extremely vulnerable population, and merit special legal privileges and protections. Forced migrants displaced by climate change may have limited agency about the timing, destination and duration of migration --or about whether to move at all-- but as of yet, they are not internationally protected as a special legal category.
As the Paris Agreement matures, as countries begin to take stock of emissions, and as the science of attribution moves further, we take this opportunity to revisit this topic, and pose a few questions to Victor, and to the PERN community:
- What is the current state of international law on "climate refugees?"
- Are we any closer to identifying climate-migrants, and designating protective legal categories for climate-migrants
(for example, a special visa status)?
- Will there be a parallel system of asylum for climate-migrants (mirroring the asylum process for refugees)?
- What legal solutions are different countries and regions proposing?
I'm looking forward to an exciting discussion!
Best regards to all,
David J. Wrathall PhD
Lead Author | Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, WG II, Ch. 8 Poverty, Livelihoods and Sustainable Development
348a Strand Hall | Corvallis, Oregon 97331-5503
Get a sneak-preview of the framework for understanding migration and climate change in the IPCC's AR6 now in Climatic Change. Read about sea level rise and future migration in Nature Climate Change, and see our compelling prediction in Environmental Research Letters, that as the sea level rises in Bangladesh, migrants will actually move towards the coast!