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CONFRONTING A RISING TIDE: A PROPOSAL FOR A CONVENTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE REFUGEES

Bonnie Docherty and Tyler Giannini

This Article proposes a new legal instrument to confront the issue of climate change refugees. It defines climate change refugees as people whom climate change forces to relocate across national borders. The existing international legal framework — including its laws and its institutions — does not adequately address the emerging crisis. The proposed instrument should create obligations to deal with both prevention and remediation of the climate change refugee problem. First, the instrument should establish guarantees of human rights protections and humanitarian aid for a specific class of people. Second, it should spread the burden of fulfilling those guarantees across the home state, host state, and international community. Finally, it should form institutions to implement the provisions, including a global fund, a coordinating agency, and a body of scientific experts. The comprehensive instrument, drawing on a range of legal precedent and academic literature, would provide a solution that is legally sound, meets humanitarian needs, and is tailored to the specific circumstances of climate change refugees.

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