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8 J. Hum. Rts. & Env't. 1 (2017)

handle is hein.journals/jhre8 and id is 1 raw text is: 




Journal of Human Rights and the Environment, Vol. 8 No. 1, March 2017, pp. 1-5



Editorial


Climate,   justice  and   displacement: reflections on law, policy and
the  future  of human rights in the climate crisis




The environmental and climate migration debate began more than three decades ago when
the United Nations Environmental Programme   published its report on 'environmental
refugees'.1 Early discussions proceeded largely unnoticed by the broader public until
environmentalists started using the term 'environmental refugees' in the mid-1990s to
demonstrate to decision-makers the vivid threat presented by inaction in mitigating
man-made   climate change.2 Instead of yielding strong commitments to C02 emission
reduction, however, the security implications of climate migration drew attention from
Western  security agencies; perhaps because of their search for new tasks after the end
of the Cold War. It took close to another decade for the projected 'threat' of people
potentially migrating because of climate change from, allegedly, the global South to
developed  (main  emitter) countries to transform into concerns  for the migrants
themselves.
   Against this background, the first legal debates to gain a high degree of publicity
clearly focused on 'climate refugees' and on the search for adequate modes of protec-
tion. The approaches advocated oscillated between the pursuit of a new convention on
climate refugees and an amendment   to either the Geneva Refugee Convention or to
the UN  Framework   Convention on  Climate Change  (UNFCCC).3
   These approaches, which can be called treaty approaches, did not prove viable for
various reasons: in specific cases, it often proved empirically difficult to disentangle
the triggers driving the movement of people, whether these were climate and other envir-
onmental causes - or economic  ones. It therefore proved equally difficult to reach an
agreeable definition of the term 'climate refugees' for legal and scientific purposes.
Last but not least, there was no political appetite amongst states for a new or amended
treaty - either under the refugee or the climate regime. Moreover, from a protection per-
spective, the debate initially placed a strong emphasis upon those who fled from natural
disasters across international borders, with a high degree of focus on the especially visible
example of environmentally-forced migrants from shrinking and submerging small island
states (the so-called 'canary in the coalmine').


1.   E El-Hinnawi, Environmental Refugees (United Nations Environmental Programme, New
York 1985).
2.   N Myers, 'Envimnmental Refugees in a Globally Warmed World' (1993) 43 BioScience 752.
3.   F Biermann and I Boas, Preparing for a Warmer World: Towards a Global Governance
System to Protect Climate Refugees. Global Governance Working Paper (2007) <http://www.
sarpn.org/documents/d0002952/Climate refugees-global_govemanceNov2007.pdf> accessed
16 November 2016; B Docherty and T Giannini, 'Confronting a Rising Tide: A Proposal for a
Convention on Climate Change Refugees' (2009) 33 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 349; WBGU, World
in Transition: Climate Change as a Security Risk. Flagship Report (German Advisory Council
on Global Change (WBGU),  Berlin 2007).

0 2017 The Author                         Journal compilation 0 2017 Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd
                                   The Lypiatts, 15 Lansdown Road, Cheltenham, Glos GL50 2JA, UK
                         and The William Pratt House, 9 Dewey Court, Northampton MA 01060-3815, USA

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