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Report on Human Rights of Migrants Discusses Impacts of Climate Change

21 October 2012: The Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants presented his first report to the UN General Assembly (UNGA). The report's thematic section on climate change and migration analyzes technical considerations, discusses international law and political engagement, and makes recommendations.

In the report, Special Rapporteur François Crépeau examines technical aspects of climate change-induced migration, defining the concept, and identifying the most affected and vulnerable persons and places. The report recognizes that climate change induces multiple migration patterns, including: temporary, circular or permanent; internal or international; and forced or voluntary. It highlights the difficulty of identifying migrants who move solely as a result of climate change, noting the challenge of isolating climate change effects from related environmental factors such as land degradation. The Special Rapporteur, therefore, calls for more rigorous research on the nature and scope of environmental migration.

The report considers climate change-induced migration within the context of international law, discussing protection and limitations under Covenants and Conventions, and noting the obligation to provide humanitarian assistance to persons affected by climate change both as an emergency response and to assist in resettlement. Noting that climate migrants are different from voluntary economic migrants or asylum seekers and refugees, the report recognizes that climate migration may require “recalibration of rules” and concludes there is a gap in international law regarding “protection of persons on the move for environmental reasons.” The report recommends urgent consideration of climate migrants from low-lying island States.

The report calls for political engagement at all governance levels to respond to climate migration, outlining the role of Governments, the international community and civil society. The Special Rapporteur highlights migration as both a challenge and a solution to climate-induced displacement, noting that migration can be an important adaptation strategy. Circular or permanent migration programmes, for instance, can enhance community resilience by reducing pressure on local environmental resources and facilitating remittances.

The report recommends governments, inter alia: address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and setting clear targets through commitments under the UNFCCC; provide support for research on climate-induced migration; identify priority vulnerable populations; and devise and implement local, national and regional migration policies and strategies. The report also recommends that regional intergovernmental organizations, international organizations, and international financial institutions (IFIs) support, facilitate and initiate the negotiation of migration agreements.

The report also reviews the Special Rapportuer's activities since he assumed his position on 1 August 2011. [Special Rapporteur Report] [UN Press Release]