Under the international law of State responsibility, a State must pay reparation for the injury caused to other States by its internationally wrongful acts. This chapter questions whether this rule could provide grounds for normative arguments relating to the treatment of migrants in the context of climate change. It argues that it could not. Certainly, States bear some responsibilities, not just when and inasmuch as they fail to comply with their obligations under specific treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol, but also when they infringe norms of general international law such as the no-harm principle. States responsible for a breach of a primary international obligation bear a secondary obligation to make reparation, in particular by compensating the injured State(s). This, however, does not justify the imposition of specific obligations on the developing States affected by climate change to adopt particular policies on ‘climate migration’ beyond international human rights law. Measures allowing for the resettlement of foreign citizens as a form of reparation, on the other hand, appear unlikely to provide an effective protection to the human rights of the individuals concerned.
No simple adjustment in international law can provide an adequate response to the issues raised by the current debates on “climate migration.” Yet, these discussions could stress the need for structural reforms in global governance in a growingly interdependent world. This introduction presents an overview of the central themes of this book. It introduces the main methodologies and theoretical frameworks that form the general background for the following analysis.
A humanitarian narrative construes climate migration as an issue of human suffering. It is largely accepted that each state must protect the human rights of individuals within its jurisdiction. However, certain circumstances such as a natural disaster, which are exacerbated by climate change, may result in a state being unable to effectively protect its population. Migration may result from inadequate protection in the place of origin, and it may also cause greater protection needs during displacement or at the place of destination. This chapter explores existing norms on human rights and humanitarian assistance, and it suggests some reflections on the prospects and dangers of a humanitarian argument in relation with climate migration.
The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol established an international protection regime applicable to a narrowly defined category of individuals unable to return to their country of origin due to a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Most of the impact of climate change occurs outside this regime, and outside complementary regimes of protection, being generally confined within states and more often than not occurring in circumstances where migration appears as “voluntary” rather than “forced.” Beyond weak arguments by analogy for a protection of “climate refugees,” climate change sheds new light on the need for a protection of the rights of all migrants. In response to climate change, human mobility needs to be reconceived as a “normal” social phenomenon, and the specific vulnerability of migrants needs to be addressed systematically through adequate measures of protection.
Migration has recently entered the negotiations on climate change as either a form of adaptation or a category of loss and damage, but few concrete steps have yet been proposed. A normative argument based on the law of state responsibility or on a certain interpretation of the principle of common but differentiated responsibility calls for states emitting excessive quantities of greenhouse gas to mitigate climate change and to compensate the states most affected by its impacts. However, industrial states are likely to elude this argument, opting instead for a self-serving climate regime, in particular by pushing developing states to further contribute in the containment of international migration in the South.
Previous chapters have shown that the concept of climate migration reflects larger issues of international solidarity and responsibility. How could states be persuaded to reinforce the protection of the human rights of migrants or to relate more responsibly to the global atmospheric commons? By deconstructing prevailing conceptions of national economic interests and national security, this chapter submits that both human rights protection and climate change responsibility can be envisioned through an alternative construction of states’ interests in a complex and interdependent world.
Advocacy and its Prospects
This timely book offers a unique interdisciplinary inquiry into the prospects of different political narratives on climate migration. It identifies the essential angles on climate migration – the humanitarian narrative, the migration narrative and the climate change narrative – and assesses their prospects. The author contends that although such arguments will influence global governance, they will not necessarily achieve what advocates hope for. He discusses how the weaknesses of the concept of “climate migration” are likely to be utilized in favour of repressive policies against migration or for the defence of industrial nations against perceived threats from the Third World.
Edited by Benoît Mayer and François Crépeau
This comprehensive Research Handbook provides an overview of the debates on how the law does, and could, relate to migration exacerbated by climate change. It contains conceptual chapters on the relationship between climate change, migration and the law, as well as doctrinal and prospective discussions regarding legal developments in different domestic contexts and in international governance.