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Climate Displacement Law Project: Towards an International Legal Standard

Rarely, if ever, has humanity dealt with an issue the magnitude of climate change displacement.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and many other groups warn that the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, ever-heavier floods, more frequent and severe storms, drought and desertification, will cause large-scale population movements across the globe.

While no one knows for certain just how large this displacement may be, it is clear that this will measure in the many tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people. Displacement of this sort is not something that will happen one day, but something that is happening today.

Through our work in Bangladesh, Fiji, Kiribati, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu and beyond, Displacement Solutions has been working for several years on how best to resolve climate displacement in a rights-based manner.

Losing a home or source of income is traumatic enough for those affected but when the issue is compounded a hundred thousand-fold on a global scale, with no clearly-identifiable person or government body to blame or to pursue for aid, people become faceless numbers and are swept away, without consideration, compensation or assistance, during the next unseasonal rains.

Many countries that either currently, or within the foreseeable future, bear the brunt of these climactic changes and resultant displacement have been tirelessly advocating for more international attention and action on their plight.

These countries’ governments and others, including Costa Rica, Germany, Mexico, Norway and Switzerland, are – through the Nansen Initiative (which DS is pleased to be associated with) currently involved in reviewing existing international legal standards and protection measures with the implication they are not sufficient to protect the human rights (including their housing, land and property rights) of people displaced internally within their country of residence or beyond their country’s borders.

Displacement Solution’s Climate Displacement Law Project comprises a series of objectives designed to solidify an acceptable international-standard legal framework for climate displacement law, assisting governments to legislate locally on these issues, expanding law school and university attention to these themes and other targeted activities with climate-affected communities. This will be achieved through the drafting of an international soft-law standard on climate displacement, global advocacy for the proposed standard, and the publication of a major academic book on the issues concerned.

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