Climate displacement and the need for legal protection

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Sylvia Ghaly


Climate Change, Climate refugees, climate migrants, climate related displacement


This paper explores the discrepancy between the protection available to traditional refugees—as defined in art 1A(2) of the Refugee Convention—and other displaced people, including migrants and internally displaced people (IDPs), and the protection available to people displaced due to climate-related factors. This paper proposes changes to the current definitions as a way to secure protection rights for those displaced due to climate-related factors, without having to change the current legal framework or create a new one. The paper begins by examining the current legal definitions, highlighting precedents for changing the legal definitions of refugees over the years. It then presents the rationale for the proposed changes, describing three common scenarios to demonstrate the plight of those displaced due to climaterelated factors, before offering recommendations to secure their protection under both international and domestic law.

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