Environment and Migration
The project on Environment and Migration explores the intersection between self-determination and the topical concerns of migration, sustainable development, and the environment.
The project on Environment and Migration explores the intersection between self-determination and the topical concerns of migration, sustainable development, and the environment. It looks at the impact of the movement of people across borders—both regular and unauthorized, including refugees—on the individuals themselves and on the community’s capacity to determine its own destiny. It addresses questions of membership, identity, and culture, as well as migration-related pressures on the welfare state, security, and governance. The project on Environment and Migration is currently engaged with two subprojects, Self-Determination and Sea-Level Rise, and Climate Mobility, and it organizes collaborative projects, workshops, and talks.
Self-Determination and Sea-Level Rise: According to the latest projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, anthropogenic global warming is likely to cause global sea levels to rise significantly over the course of this century, presenting an existential physical threat to the territorial integrity of low-lying island States and threatening their right to self-determination. The international community is engaged in multiple processes to better understand the impact on affected populations. One such process is underway at the UN’s International Law Commission, which established a Study Group on Sea-Level Rise in Relation to International Law. In collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Liechtenstein to the United Nations, the Institute convened a series of off-the-record meetings with representatives of immediately affected States, scholars, lawyers, and other experts to discuss the situation, as well as the status of measures being taken to address the consequences of rising sea levels. The subsequent report was referenced in UN Document A/CN.4/752/Add.1. The project’s current work focus on Statehood and Sovereignty; Citizenship and Statelessness; Adaptation; and UN Responses.
Climate Mobility: The subproject on Climate Mobility is concerned with the voluntary and non-voluntary mobility of people in response to sea-level rise, droughts, floods, storms, and other impacts related to climate and environmental change. At the extreme, this includes climate refugees, who flee their community of origin because of the severity of the effects on climate change on their way of life. Mass relocation remains rare, but as the threats posed by adverse impacts of climate change increase, so will the pressure for individuals in these communities to move internally or emigrate. The emigration of individuals as climate refugees risks removing them from the protective power of their states, and, given the distinctive character of communities of origin, host states may not be able to serve as adequate substitutes. This subproject thus considers the moral right of affected communities to remain in situ; the appeal of philosophical proposals that re-envision territorial or citizenship rights; and the obligation on the part of the state, other states, and the international community at large to fund and facilitate adaptation as an alternative to climate migration.
Previous projects include Climate Engineering.