Monday, July 27, 2009

Institutional Adaptation

Adaptation measures for climate change should focus not only on infrastructure and renewable energy but also on developing institutions capable of dealing with climate induced stresses such as mass migration. Pacific island nations are among the most vulnerable to rising sea levels and some nations have considered relocating. Oxfam Australia's new report on climate induced migration in the Pacific predicts:

By the year 2050, about 75 million people could be forced to leave their homes in the Asia-Pacific region due to climate change. Pacific island governments are already tackling climate change-related relocation and resettlement. Given the significant implications of these population movements for our region, it is vital that Australia and New Zealand governments hold discussions with Pacific island governments about this issue now. Planning for climate displacement will require looking at the most effective ways to support Pacific islanders who are forced to move from their homes, including through appropriate immigration policies.

In the event of sudden climate change, such as floods and storms, a mass influx of refugees could destabilize neighboring countries. Conflict over climate stresses can occur if neighboring communities don't understand the causes of migration and if existing institutions aren't prepared for climate induced migration. Oxfam's report has good recommendations for policy makers to begin laying the groundwork for dramatic changes in future migrations due to climate change.

Governments must also work with local community leaders to educate citizens about climate refugees in areas where mass migrations are likely to occur. Conflict may not originate from states in these situations but from native citizens responding to an influx of migrants especially if neighboring states are already divided by ethnic or religious divides. International human rights law, while insufficient by itself to prevent conflict, must begin to recognize climate induced migrants as a separate category of people where their claims to migrate can be judged by international law. Otherwise, without any sort of legal recognition, people fleeing from environmental catastrophe have very limited legal claims under international law.

1 comment:

  1. might be interesting to post this also at the online climate adaptation network by the name "AdaptAbility" --