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 11: Climate change, migration and the law of state responsibility

Benoît Mayer


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.

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