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Frank Biermann and Ingrid Boas

Climate change may compel millions of people, largely in Africa and Asia, to leave their homes to seek refuge in other places over the course of the century. Yet the current institutions, organizations and funding mechanisms, including new soft law initiatives, are not sufficiently equipped to deal with this. The situation calls for new governance. Following a review of academic and popular debates focussed on defining this issue as climate ‘refugees’ or ‘migrants’, we advance in this chapter a blueprint for a global governance architecture on the protection and voluntary resettlement of climate migrants. We argue against the extension of the definition of refugees under the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and discuss the limited use of soft law mechanisms as these are largely focussed on state responsibility. Key elements of our proposal are, instead, a new legal instrument that builds on the responsibility of the international community and is specifically tailored for the needs of climate migrants—a Protocol on Recognition, Protection and Resettlement of Climate Migrants to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—as well as a separate funding mechanism, a Climate Migrant Protection and Resettlement Fund.