Research Handbook on Climate Change, Migration and the Law
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Research Handbook on Climate Change, Migration and the Law

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.
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Chapter 6: The relevance of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement for the climate change-migration nexus

Elizabeth Ferris


The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement (Guiding Principles), presented to the UN Human Rights Commission in 1998 and endorsed by the Global Summit in 2005, provide a widely-accepted normative framework for protecting the rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Given the definition of IDPs used in the Guiding Principles, those displaced by the effects of climate change who remain within the borders of their countries are considered as IDPs and the Guiding Principles are thus applicable to them. After a brief overview of the Guiding Principles, this chapter considers the ways in which they have been used to uphold the rights of those displaced by sudden-onset disasters and then turns to the more difficult issue of their relevance to those displaced by other forms of environmental change associated with climate change. A particularly difficult issue is the case of individuals who leave their communities because of loss of livelihoods due to the effects of climate change. This difficulty stems from the broader question of determining causality – which affects other forms of the climate-change migration nexus as well. While it is argued here that the Guiding Principles are and should be the primary normative framework in upholding the rights of those displaced internally by the effects of climate change, there are two areas where further elaboration is needed in order to apply to the specific characteristics of climate change-induced displacement. First, durable solutions, particularly when return is not an option because of the effects of climate change. Secondly, issues around accountability, given the fact that responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions can be determined. These questions are further discussed in the following sections.

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