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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The politics of protection : conceptualizing climatic displacement and a global protection regime Aageson-Morlock, Megan


Climate change is anticipated to drive millions of people from their homes this century. Estimates indicate that between 200 and 250 million people may be displaced because of rising sea levels, desertification, and increased storm surges working in concert. At present, however, there is no protection regime, institutional mandate, or legal architecture capable of responding to the plight of climatically displaced persons (CDPs). Since 2007, a number of legal regimes have been proposed to provide CDPs with legal assistance. Each regime creates compulsory mandates for states in terms of their assistance to the climatically displaced. Though proposed regimes address the existing legal gaps in protection, they fail to address why states would in fact be willing politically to sign such a treaty. This paper argues that a hard legal framework for CDP protection is not politically prudent. Rather, CDP protection should be pursued through soft legalization. In particular, this paper examines the 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and the ways in which their non-binding nature provide a normative framework for the development of a CDP protection instrument. The 1998 Guiding Principles developed in response to the political limitations of the 1951 Refugee Convention and its contemporary application. States have taken increased measures to limit their existing asylum obligations under the legally binding 1951 framework and the non-binding IDP Guiding Principles emerged in direct response to this political resistance. The non-binding nature of the Guiding Principles has not undermined their authoritative force, however, but rather it has served as a powerful tool for protecting vulnerable populations. Thus, this paper contributes to the literature on climatic displacement by conceptualizing how the evolution and application of contemporary protection regimes, as well as their normative frameworks, can shape efforts to protect those who are displaced by climate change.

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