CCJHR-ISS21 seminar on climate migration

The CCJHR and the Institute for Social Science in the 21st Century (ISS21) Migration Cluster jointly hosted an inter-disciplinary seminar on climate migration on Thursday 2nd March 2017 in the School of Law, UCC.

Few people challenge the strong scientific evidence that anthropogenic climate change is a reality, and is negatively impacting many parts of the world. Indeed, one of the most oft-quoted consequences of global climate change is the possibility of large-scale human migration in response to rising sea levels, increased desertification, and intensification of natural disasters such as hurricanes and flooding.

Therefore, this seminar considered the human, social and legal implications of climate migration from an inter-disciplinary perspective, bringing together researchers from the fields of geography, philosophy and the law. Professor Robert McLeman from Wilfrid Laurier University Ontario and Trinity College Dublin, commenced by examining why people migrate and the different categories of climate-relating migration. Professor McLeman set out a variety of scenarios, including amenity migration (for example people in China migrating away from urban areas to avoid extensive smog and pollution), seasonal migration arising from seasonal floods in Bangladesh or dry season migration in India and central Asia, and climate extremes such as Hurricane Mitch which prompted a pulse of short-term evacuations and distress migration. Professor McLeman concluded by stressing that we should not fear floods of climate refugees but focus on addressing root causes, building adaptive capacity and creating basic legal protections and rights.

Next, Dr Cara Nine from the Department of Philosophy, UCC presented on her research into two key aspects of climate migration. First, Dr Nine examined the issues of territory and sovereignty in the context of disappearing states such as the small Pacific Islands that comprise Kiribati and Tuvalu. Applying John Locke’s proviso mechanism to territorial rights, Dr Nine queried when a state or people might become a candidate to gain sovereignty over new territory due to the disappearance of their original state. Dr Nine then examined the concept of place attachment, defined as the positively experienced bonds between persons and their environment, and identified specific interests including autonomy, self-esteem and personal identity that affect an individual’s personal interests.

Dr Dug Cubie from the School of Law, UCC addressed the legal categorisation of “climate refugees” and identified the lack of an accepted legal definition. In particular, Dr Cubie noted the multi-causal nature of migratory decisions and that, except in cases of catastrophic environmental degradation, attributing causation to climate change was challenging. Dr Cubie also highlighted the importance of considering potentially vulnerable people who remain in their homes due to ill-health, age or other reasons. The right to remain requires the application of human rights principles such as participation, empowerment and accountability to ensure adaptation with dignity. In particular, Dr Cubie noted the rights of access to information, participation in decision-making and effective access to justice arising from Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.

The seminar concluded with an open discussion with those in attendance on a variety of aspects, and the benefits of such inter-disciplinary events to share knowledge and experience across the university. For more information, see:

Public Panel Discussion: “Climate Justice and Adaptation Strategies: Linking Global and Local Initiatives”

By Mark Kernan, 7th July 2014

 

As a precursor to the third in a series of workshops on Climate Justice, Human Rights, Migration and Adaptation Strategies, hosted by the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights in conjunction with the EU COST Action Programme IS1101, a public discussion took place on 9th June 2014 at UCC highlighting key areas in the climate justice debate, with speakers from diverse viewpoints: academia, policy-level, and from an activist standpoint.

 

Chair for the discussion, Professor Siobhán Mullally, introduced the evening’s key talking points: how different types of migration, short-term and seasonal for example, can be an adaptation strategy in response to climate change, and the need for examination of the institutional responses to adaptive migration strategies at the global, regional, and national levels.

 

First to speak was Dr Cosmin Corendea, from the United Nations University (UNU) in Bonn and current chair of the University’s social vulnerability project, who discussed a recent UN collaborative project – Where the Rain Falls – which ran from 2011 to 2013. The project was an empirical study with a participatory ‘bottoms-up approach’ which focused on climate change, food security and human mobility in eight countries in the Global South, where seasonal rainfall, now often erratic due to climate change, acts as a trigger for non-traditional migration. The global findings of the project, based on country specific case studies, highlighted in particular that in 30% of cases forced migration was the main violation of human rights, particularly problematic in the case of rural to urban migration. The study’s key finding however found that the most important issue facing climate-induced migrants in all countries was food security. As a specific example, in Tanzania climate change is now impacting on both the wet and dry seasons, where the monsoon season often falls later than expected thus causing confusion to traditional migratory patterns. As a result, communities who migrate to other regions at non-traditional times, due to crop failure for instance, now face severe human rights problems, often in conflict over resources with host communities. Dr Corendea however was keen to point out that ‘migratory reaction adaptations’ differ considerably in diverse regions of the world. Responses in Vietnam to erratic rainfalls for instance are different for a host of reasons from Peru, for geographic or cultural reasons, and local and national action plans to deal with such a diversity of migratory responses must take this into account.

 

Second to speak on adaptation strategies, this time from a Global North policy level perspective was Diego Quiroz-Onate, Policy Officer with the Scottish Human Rights Commission. In his talk on climate justice in Scotland, three themes where outlined. First, he argued that human rights are not adequately discussed in climate change reports. Instead, climate change is communicated overwhelmingly in terms of fiscal policy, economics and depleting resources and as a result the social element is ignored or at best downplayed. Climate change displacement impacts on housing rights, for example when flooding acts as a push factor resulting in homelessness, and sometimes destitution, a direct consequence. Therefore the integration of a strong human rights framework at the policy and legislative level is vital for both adaptation and mitigation. Second, and following on from the first theme, the human rights-based approach gives added value in the design, implementation and evaluation of law, policies and practices. Human rights impact assessments for example, he argued, add moral value, within a strong moral framework, in that they identify both rights-holders with specific claims, and duty-bearers with specific legal obligations. His final point dealt with the concept of climate justice in Scotland, specifically the 2009 Climate Change Act and the 2012 Scottish Parliament motion on climate justice. The 2009 Act creates the statutory framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enables the transitioning to a low carbon economy. Meanwhile, the 2012 motion was passed unanimously, and according to Quiroz-Onate, this legislative framework linking human rights to development in Scotland is a highly progressive model, with a climate justice approach as the formal policy of the Scottish Parliament.

 

Finally, speaking from an activist point of view, Oisín Coghlan from Friends of the Earth (Ireland) spoke on climate change legislation in Ireland – specifically, the Climate Action and Low-Carbon Bill 2014. Unfortunately, and in direct contradiction to the Scottish legislature’s success in passing laws, Ireland is considerably off-track on climate change targets due to legislative inactivity. In a challenging analysis, Coghlan argued that the ‘hold up’, ongoing since 2007, is largely due to ‘complex climate change politics’. Before the 2011 election for instance all the main political parties had explicitly committed to climate change legislation, yet since the new Daíl has convened the current coalition parties, Fine Gael and Labour, have not seen it as a priority. All this, he frankly admitted, despite the inception of the coalition on advocating for a climate change law began in 2007, with development NGO’s and faith groups, has been a somewhat sobering, if enlightening experience.

 

A law is needed, Coghlan argued, to provide a ‘policy architecture’ robust enough to drive action on climate change. Otherwise, it invariably falls off the political agenda. Part of the reason the legislation itself has taken so long, he maintained, is due to civil service resistance; where there is a preference for policy flexibility over firm timelines and targets, and where increased external oversight and accountability hold no great appeal. It takes considerable political will to overcome that inertia and political leadership has been lacking, especially given the influence of vested interests such as IBEC and the IFA, concerned about the short-term costs of climate action on their members.

 

Coghlan also argued that climate legislation, while not negating the legitimate interests of the business and farming lobbies, is intended to increase transparency and raise the level of democratic debate on climate policy. The public role of the expert advisory body should help bring the policy decisions out from behind closed doors. Elements in the civil service regard this as restricting Ireland’s room for manoeuvre.

 

This combination of civil service caution and interest-group concern is what stymied the last Government’s Climate Bill which included targets for 2030 and 2050, beyond the 2020 targets Ireland had already agreed to in EU negotiations. Following discussion of mitigation and adaptation, Coghlan finished the session with a somewhat apt and succinct phrase which had been conveyed to him at a recent environmental convention, in relation to climate change and its consequences: manage the unavoidable, but avoid the unmanageable.

 

In summing up the three presentations and placing them within tripartite institutional and policy structures, Dr Dug Cubie of the CCJHR and organiser of the evening’s discussion, argued that to protect the most vulnerable in society we must adapt to a changing climate as well as tackling the root causes via mitigation efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, climate change adaptation strategies must be understood in terms of linking the global UNFCCC Cancun Adaptation Framework which prioritises approaches that are country-driven, gender-sensitive, transparent, participatory and based on best available science; with the regional, for example the EU adaptation strategies and climate-proofing action at EU and member State level; while at the local level, it is necessary for the Irish National Adaptation Framework and the Climate Action and Low-Carbon Development Bill to articulate a coherent strategic government policy for both adaptation and mitigation measures.

Climate Justice and Adaptation Strategies: public lecture, Thursday 26th June 2014, UCC

“Climate Justice and Adaptation Strategies: Linking Global and Local Initiatives”

On Thursday 26th June 2014, the CCJHR will host a free public discussion on the topic of climate justice and adaptation strategies in Room 107, Western Gateway Building, UCC.

Chaired by Professor Siobhan Mullally, this event brings together a panel of international experts on climate change, human rights and migration to analyse the impact of climate change on the most vulernable in society.

Dr Cosmin Corendea from the UN University in Bonn will commence by presenting his recent research into migration decisions by individuals and communities resulting from the increasing variability of rainfall in countries such as Bangladesh, Peru, and Tanzania. Full details of this research can be found at: www.wheretherainfalls.org

Next, Diego Quiroz-Onate will describe the experience of the Scottish Human Rights Commission in promoting a climate justice approach with policy-makers in Scotland.

Bringing the discussion to the national and local level, Oisin Coghlan from Friends of the Earth (Ireland) will analyse the pending Climate Action and Low Carbon Bill 2014, and discuss the approach to climate change taken by the Irish authorities.

Finally, Dr Dug Cubie, Faculty of Law, UCC will describe the national adaptation framework for Ireland before leading a Q&A session with all contributors.

Date: Thursday 26th June 2014
Time: 4.00pm – 6.00pm
Venue: Room 107, Western Gateway Building, University College Cork

ALL WELCOME
There is no registration fee for this event.
Advance booking is required via www.eventbrite.ie (search for CCJHR).

Climate Justice and the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action

Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice (MRFCJ), delivered a public lecture at UCC’s Centre for Global Development titled ‘Climate Justice Post Durban’ on 18 January 2012. Mrs. Robinson explored the outcomes of the most recent UN climate change conference, COP17, which took place in Durban, South Africa, in December 2011, from a climate justice perspective and the extent to which it addressed the needs of those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

COP17, she said was concerned with “what I believe to be the most critical issue we all face – the future of our planet. In these times of economic crisis, amid worries about our own and the European and international economies, it is not surprising that attention focuses on our immediate problems. But, make no mistake about it, we ignore the threat posed by climate change at our peril.”

Mrs Robinson explained the three priorities for the MRFCJ at COP17; the legal form of a future climate agreement; food security and agriculture; and women’s leadership and the gender dimensions of climate change.

Speaking about the outcome of COP17, known as the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, Mrs Robinson said: “The door is open for a new international and inclusive legally binding agreement to solve the climate change problem. We have a start date, January 2012, a deadline December 2015, and a lot of work to do, barriers to breakdown and agreement to reach before then.

“Central to this will be overcoming the divide between developed and developing countries in the climate negotiations. The alliance formed between the EU, the Least Developed Countries and the Small Island Developing States at COP17 started to challenge this divide. It is a move in the right direction that will need to be nurtured and strengthened in the coming years to facilitate an ambitious new agreement.”

She continued: “We made progress on issues of importance to climate justice including gender equality and food security. Both of these reflect the Principles of Climate Justice which underpin the work of MRFCJ and help to communicate the human impacts of climate change and demonstrate the need for solutions which are informed by human rights.”

“This work is far from complete and we will continue to work on these themes inside and outside the Climate Change Convention as core elements of our work on climate justice.”

The lecture was part of the UCC Centre for Global Development’s Global Challenges Lecture Series.

See also:

Full text of lecture

Climate issues crucial, says Robinson – Irish Times, 19th January 2012