Adapting to Climate-Related Human Mobility into Europe: Between the Protection Agenda and the Deterrence Paradigm, or Beyond?

In: European Journal of Migration and Law
Matthew Scott Senior Researcher in Disasters and Displacement, Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Lund Sweden

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In 2015, following a series of sub-regional consultations, 109 states endorsed an Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change. Although active in supporting the consultative process and notwithstanding their endorsement of this ‘Protection Agenda’, the European Union and its Member States promote ‘effective practices’ in the global South without committing to the same course of action at home. Recognizing that the Protection Agenda is difficult to reconcile with contemporary migration politics in the global North, this article argues that an approach that builds on the European Climate Law commitment to pursue climate change adaptation ‘guided by the best available and most recent scientific evidence’ provides a starting point for addressing some important aspects of human mobility in the context of disasters and climate change, and provides a context for discussing the kind of transformational adaptation called for by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

1 Introduction

Questions about how states should respond to cross-border displacement and migration (‘human mobility’) in the context of disasters and climate change have been discussed in academic and policy literature for decades. The initial focus on anticipated large-scale movement of people from climate vulnerable countries in the global South to wealthier countries in the global North1 gradually evolved towards increasing engagement with mobility dynamics within countries and regions in the global South.2 This transition relates to and reinforces the increasing evidence base developed through empirical studies around the world, which demonstrate that, for the most part, people tend not to move long distances in response to disasters and environmental pressures associated with a changing climate. Overshadowed by the well-documented realities of human mobility observed across Asia,3 the Pacific,4 Africa,5 and South and Central America,6 the phenomenon of inter-regional displacement and migration into Europe has received comparatively limited academic and policy attention.7

However, recent research establishes unequivocally that people do move between regions seeking to enter and remain in global North countries for reasons related to disasters and climate change. Scott8 examined over 200 directly relevant judicial decisions from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA, the United Kingdom and others in which individuals had sought recognition of refugee status in this context. Mayrhofer and Ammer9 considered a sample of 646 out of nearly 4,000 Austrian cases identified and Scott & Garner10 reviewed 200 directly relevant cases from Sweden. Schloss11 has addressed the phenomenon from a judicial perspective in Germany, and Scissa12 describes cases in Italy. Together, the volume of cases reflected in these studies establish unequivocally that people seek to enter or remain in European states in the context of disasters and climate change. There is therefore good reason to revisit questions about cross-border displacement and migration towards Europe.

Neither the 1951 Refugee Convention nor international or regional human rights law provisions expressly extend a right to enter or remain to persons whose movement is connected to disasters or climate change. Proposals for addressing this ‘protection gap’ are myriad. Bierman & Boas13 offer a ‘blueprint for a global governance architecture for the protection and voluntary resettlement of climate refugees’ under a Protocol on Recognition, Protection, and Resettlement of Climate Refugees to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Prieur14 proposes a draft Convention, with similar proposals by Warren,15 Sarjana,16 Ragheboom,17 and Attapatu.18 Gonzalez19 advocates a right for people from countries affected by climate change to choose where to move as partial reparations for carbon capitalism. Similar calls are made by Ahmed,20 Eckersley,21 and Buxton.22

Another approach focuses on migration as an adaptation strategy.23 Here, facilitating the movement of people across borders, including to countries in the global North, is seen as providing a means for individuals to earn money that can then be sent home in the form of remittances, enabling relatives and others to remain in situ. The focus is clearly on helping climate vulnerable countries to adapt. Some mobility schemes in the Pacific have been considered from the perspective of migration as adaptation.24 In relation to climate-related human mobility between Africa and Europe, Goff, Zarin, & Goodman argue that:

Because several migration scenarios have low security risks, migration should be advanced as an effective adaptation strategy for population growth and environmental changes that will likely result from a changing climate.25

There is very limited evidence that states are adopting migration as adaptation policies,26 and even less evidence that states in the global North have been persuaded to develop global governance frameworks or atone for carbon capitalism through a migration as reparations model. Indeed, reflecting on high-level statements delivered at the 2022 International Migration Review Forum, Huckstep and Dempster observe that ‘the perception of climate change driving a problematic wave of migrants remains hard to shake.’27

1.1 The Protection Agenda

Migration as adaptation is an approach that can be seen as forming part of a range of tools to address the varieties of displacement and migration scenarios that play out in different contexts. This ‘toolkit’ approach is reflected in the notion of ‘effective practices’ detailed in the Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change (the Protection Agenda), which is the expressly non-binding outcome document produced through the Nansen Initiative on Disaster-Induced Cross-Border Displacement. The Nansen Initiative was a state-led consultative process that took place from 2011–2015 and was ‘intended to identify effective practices and build consensus on key principles and elements to address the protection and assistance needs of persons displaced across borders in the context of disasters, including the adverse effects of climate change.’28 A set of effective practices were consolidated through a series of sub-regional consultations in the Pacific, Latin America, the Horn of Africa, Southeast Asia and South Asia. In addition to migration as adaptation measures, some of the many other effective practices identified in the Protection Agenda include:

  • Explicitly designating and authorizing competent authorities to permit travel, admission and stay for cross-border disaster-displaced persons in line with specified criteria

  • Granting visas that authorize travel and entry upon arrival for people from disaster-affected countries, or temporarily suspending visa requirements

  • Prioritizing and expediting the processing of regular migration categories for foreigners from affected countries following a disaster, or waiving certain admission requirements for such categories

  • Reviewing existing bilateral and (sub-)regional migration agreements to determine how they could facilitate migration as an adaptation measure, including issues such as simplified travel and customs documents. In the absence of such agreements, negotiating and implementing new agreements to facilitate migration with dignity

  • Developing or adapting national policies providing for residency permit quotas or seasonal worker programs in accordance with international labour standards to prioritize people from countries or areas facing natural hazard or climate change impacts

  • Reviewing asylum applications of and granting refugee status or similar protection under human rights law to displaced persons in disaster contexts who meet the relevant criteria under applicable international, regional, or national law

The effective practices described in the Protection Agenda are highly relevant in the European context, providing a more technocratic narrative than proposals grounded in arguments about carbon colonialism or global governance. However, although the Protection Agenda has informed domestic, sub-regional and regional law and policy in other parts of the world, innovations have focused overwhelmingly on intra-regional mobility.29 Citizens of EU Member States and their family members already enjoy a high degree of free movement within the EU, so the space for innovation lies primarily in inter-regional practices. Considering the widespread human rights violations associated with border control in Europe, which are addressed in detail in Section 2, principles of solidarity and mutual self-interest that underpin regional free movement arrangements are unlikely to inspire progressive policy innovation when people from outside of Europe seek to enter or remain. Instead, Europe’s external borders are distinguished by the operation of a deterrence paradigm that drives increasing investment in preventing the arrival or stay of people seeking international protection and/or who are unable to satisfy restrictive immigration requirements.30 As most EU Member States have endorsed the Protection Agenda,31 yet are simultaneously involved in maintaining the deterrence paradigm, the question concerning how Europe may adapt to cross-border climate-related human mobility warrants close consideration.

From the outset, it is important to highlight that individual Member States have not always refused to grant or extend legal status to persons in situations of cross-border human mobility in the context of disasters and climate change. The Protection Agenda records multiple examples from Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Germany, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, amongst others, where these states elected not to enforce the return of people to their countries of origin, primarily in relation to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti,32 but there is limited research available in English detailing contemporary approaches in these or other countries.33 As noted by Kraler, Katsiaficas & Wagner, apart from Sweden, Finland and Italy, which at the time the report was published operated specific legal frameworks for people displaced in the context of disasters, ‘the link between climate change and migration is not much discussed.’34 Considering the depth of insights provided in Mayrhofer & Ammer, in relation to Austria,35 Scott & Garner in relation to Sweden,36 and Scissa in relation to Italy,37 further research into judicial decisions concerning cross-border climate-related human mobility in other EU Member States is indicated.

The purpose of this article is to highlight the inherent tension between the deterrence paradigm and the Protection Agenda, and to introduce a new way of thinking about legal and policy arguments in Europe, based on the European Climate Law and the ‘best available and most recent scientific evidence.’

The article has the following structure: Section 2 introduces the deterrence paradigm. Section 3 examines the relationship between the deterrence paradigm and EU and EU Member State policy responses to cross-border climate-related human mobility. Section 4 then explores immediate and longer-term pathways for addressing the phenomenon that are grounded in the European Climate Law and informed by the sixth assessment report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.38

2 The Deterrence Paradigm

More than 23 thousand people have died seeking to enter the European Union since records on ‘migrant deaths’ began to be systematically collected in 2014.39 The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has described the EU approach to border control as ‘lethal disregard for desperate people.’40 In 2013, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, published a regional study on the management of the European Union external border and the impact on the human rights of migrants, concluding:

Despite the existence of a number of important policy and institutional achievements in practice, the European Union has largely focused its attention on stopping irregular migration through the strengthening of external border controls. An overarching political discourse that posits irregular migration within the realm of criminality and security, reiterated by member States, has further legitimated practices of externalization of border control through mechanisms such as migration detention, “pushbacks” and readmissions.41

In a detailed follow up report in 2015 documenting ‘persistent human rights concerns’ the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants was equally critical:

Given the European Union’s share of global resources and wealth of substantive normative standards, recent deaths at sea and other human rights issues have to be seen as the result of collective political will and policy choices.42

More recent investigations by Felipe González Morales, Crépeau’s successor, demonstrate the endurance of this approach:

In 2021, thousands died or went missing in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean while trying to reach European territory. Hundreds were also reported missing or dead while crossing the land borders between Belarus and Poland, Turkey and Greece, and Mexico and the United States of America, among other borders. The Special Rapporteur raises concern that some border governance measures have instilled hostility and have failed to ensure the safety and dignity of migrants, including by intentionally depriving them of adequate access to humanitarian assistance and the basic means of survival. Pushbacks have resulted in family separation and trauma- and fear-induced health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety.43

Gammeltoft-Hansen and Tan describe this state of affairs as reflecting a ‘deterrence paradigm’:

Since the end of the Cold War, policies to block and deter international mobility for refugees have emerged as an increasingly normalized form of policymaking on the part of developed States. Today, the ‘deterrence paradigm’ arguably constitutes the dominant policy framework through which States in the Global North approach refugees.44

A vast body of literature describes different aspects of this deterrence paradigm.45 However, the relationship between the deterrence paradigm and the Protection Agenda has not been explored in detail.46

3 Between the Protection Agenda and the Deterrence Paradigm

Early ‘climate refugee’ narratives fed seamlessly into the deterrence paradigm, with predictions of heretofore unseen levels of ‘mass migration.’ In 1993, Myers called for more attention to be paid to ‘environmental refugees’, whose numbers could reach 150 million in ‘a greenhouse-affected world.’47 Although not wildly exaggerated when the contemporary scale of disaster-related internal displacement is considered (averaging around 24 million new displacements each year),48 there remains no evidence that people are displaced across international borders on this scale.

The European Union originally adopted this narrative. In a 2008 Paper from the High Representative and the European Commission to the European Council on Climate Change and International Security, the High Representative warns:

Those parts of the populations that already suffer from poor health conditions, unemployment or social exclusion are rendered more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which could amplify or trigger migration within and between countries. The UN predicts that there will be millions of “environmental” migrants by 2020 with climate change as one of the major drivers of this phenomenon … Europe must expect substantially increased migratory pressure.49

The 2011 Cancun Adaptation Framework was seen as a ‘paradigm shift’ by some academics closely engaged in the process. Already in its First Assessment Report, the IPCC had warned that ‘[t]he gravest effects of climate change may be those on human migration as millions are displaced by shoreline erosion, coastal flooding, and severe drought.’50 However, it took until 2011 for the UNFCCC process to adopt a specific action point on this issue. Paragraph 14(f) reads:

The Conference of the Parties …

14. Invites all Parties to enhance action on adaptation under the Cancun Adaptation Framework, taking into account their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, and specific national and regional development priorities, objectives and circumstances, by undertaking, inter alia, the following:

(f) Measures to enhance understanding, coordination and cooperation with regard to climate change induced displacement, migration and planned relocation, where appropriate, at the national, regional and international levels;51

Gemenne describes what appeared to be a ‘paradigm shift’

That was a paradigm shift: that migration in the context of climate change was no longer a disaster to avoid at all costs but a strategy that ought to be encouraged and facilitated. The movement of people was no longer a matter of migration policy but rather of environmental policy – an adaptation strategy.52

Similarly, Warner (2012) reflects:

Migration, displacement, and planned relocation feature in the text of the Cancun Adaptation Framework as technical cooperation issues which highlight activities that help to guide adaptation funding. Human mobility in the UNFCCC context is distinct from other policy fora – like international protocols and expanding mandates of existing frameworks such as the 1951 Geneva Convention. Operationally oriented solutions and discussions are moving forward in a UNFCCC process through the Cancun Adaptation Framework [paragraph 14(f)], the Climate Finance and the Adaptation Committee, and the Subsidiary Body on Implementation’s Work Program on Loss and Damage. These and other policy processes catalyze nationally and regionally driven work on the topics of migration, displacement, and planned relocation in the context of climate change.53

The Protection Agenda expressly aligns with the Cancun Adaptation Framework and the significant regional and sub-regional normative developments referenced earlier in this paper vindicate the optimism of Gemenne and Warner. However, the Cancun Adaptation Framework and the Protection Agenda have not driven concerted regional, sub-regional or national action to address inter-regional climate-related human mobility into Europe, and the dominance of the deterrence paradigm suggests that swift and substantial transformation of law, policy and practice in this area is highly unlikely.

Security considerations continue to influence how the EU and its Member States engage with climate-related human mobility. Most explicitly, Hungary continues to embrace the earlier narrative of mass climate-induced migration as a security threat. At the 2019 UN Security Council meeting on climate change, the Hungarian representative foretold:

Water scarcity, increasing ocean levels, desertification, the decreasing productivity of arable lands and the demographic boom in certain regions will definitely result in additional massive migration flows, even at the intercontinental level … According to estimations and predictions, by 2050 approximately 200 million migrants will have taken to the road owing to environmental causes … That is why border protection will be the most important factor for ensuring security in the future.54

This blunt security frame has become more finessed elsewhere and is now embedded within a climate change adaptation narrative, albeit one that focuses on helping states in the global South to adapt, rather than addressing any dimensions of adaptation within the EU itself. EU-level policy documents no longer express concern about the arrival of large numbers of people displaced by disasters and climate change, yet frame support for climate change adaptation initiatives in the global South as part of a strategy to prevent conflict and other drivers of migration. Moving away from its earlier-expressed concern about the potential for large scale climate change-related mobility into Europe, the European Union’s current policy reflects the academic and policy consensus that the vast majority of movement is, and can be expected to remain, internal within single countries, or cross-border within regions and sub-regions.55 EU Member State support for the Protection Agenda aligns well with this framing. Consequently, the focus is squarely placed on supporting people in situ through financial and technical cooperation on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

The turning point came in 2013, when the European Commission published its Commission Staff Working Document on climate change, environmental degradation and migration. Drawing heavily on the influential Foresight report,56 the document reasoned:

existing evidence clearly suggests that where environmental change impacts on migration, its effects will be felt primarily in the developing world, with migrants moving either internally or to countries in the same region. New large-scale international population movements to developed regions such as the EU are therefore unlikely to occur.57

At this point, the EU stopped openly anticipating climate- and disaster-related human mobility into Europe, and subsequent policy documents focus entirely on the external dimension, whilst maintaining allegiance to the deterrence paradigm described above. The 2020 European Pact on Migration and Asylum is instructive. After discussing multiple mechanisms for addressing irregular migration, the Pact declares:

The EU is the world’s largest provider of development assistance. This will continue to be a key feature in EU engagement with countries, including on migration issues. Work to build stable and cohesive societies, to reduce poverty and inequality and promote human development, jobs and economic opportunity, to promote democracy, good governance, peace and security, and to address the challenges of climate change can all help people feel that their future lies at home.58

The final sentence in this quote is significant, as it reflects a gentle reminder that work to address the drivers of migration is inextricable from the wider EU policy of deterrence. This point is clearly articulated by Spijkerboer, who interrogates the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Stability and Addressing Root Causes of Irregular Migration and Displaced Persons in Africa, the Refugee Facility for Turkey, and the Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis as mechanisms for ‘instrumentalis[ing] European development agencies to implement migration policy transfer.’59

Denmark’s 2021 Strategy for Development Cooperation epitomises Spijkerboer’s point:

Denmark will use this strategy to prevent and fight poverty and inequality, conflict and displacement – and thereby mitigate irregular migration.60

It continues:

Within the framework of the Refugee Convention, we must take action to help people in fragile countries and in regions of origin. This is where poverty is increasingly concentrated. And this is where the climate crisis has the hardest impact. Displacement and irregular migration stem from the inability of fragile and conflict-affected societies to provide their citizens prosperity, jobs, rights, democracy and security. Fighting poverty and creating new opportunities for people in regions of origin and in fragile countries helps to prevent irregular migration towards Europe.61

Finally, the same sentiment is reflected in the most recent European Commission Staff Working Document. The only time immigration status is addressed in the document is in relation to the impacts of irregular status on people displaced outside of Europe, in contexts where EU humanitarian and development assistance may be relevant:

Additional protection issues may arise due to the lack of a well-defined legal status and associated rights which makes it difficult for displaced persons and migrants to access assistance, basic services, and the labour market.62

The entirety of the document focuses on how the EU can work externally to address human mobility in the context of disasters and climate change, strongly suggesting that the EU, during the year when it assumes the presidency of the Platform on Disaster Displacement,63 has no intention of working towards implementing the Protection Agenda within Europe.

Against this backdrop, where the violent borders of the European Union are extended through soft diplomacy in the form of development cooperation and climate change adaptation, yet also maintained in conventional forms of border security, the ‘effective practices’ endorsed by the EU and most EU Member States in the Protection Agenda appear only relevant to Europe as part of a wider project to manage migration in the external dimension. Yet, cross-border human mobility in the context of disasters and climate change is a reality in Europe. Can the Protection Agenda play a role in Europe notwithstanding the dominance of the deterrence paradigm? What does the lack of effective practices in Europe say about its capacity to adapt to the human mobility dimensions of climate change?

4 An Adaptation-based Approach: Incremental Entry Points and a Longer-Term Transformational Agenda for the EU and EU Member States

The European Union has committed itself to ‘ambitious adaptation action.’64 The preamble to the European Climate Law declares:

Adaptation is a key component of the long-term global response to climate change. The adverse effects of climate change can potentially exceed the adaptive capacities of Member States. Therefore, Member States and the Union should enhance their adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change, as provided for in Article 7 of the Paris Agreement, as well as maximise the co-benefits with other policies and legislation. The Commission should adopt a Union strategy on adaptation to climate change in line with the Paris Agreement. Member States should adopt comprehensive national adaptation strategies and plans based on robust climate change and vulnerability analyses, progress assessments and indicators, and guided by the best available and most recent scientific evidence. The Union should seek to create a favourable regulatory environment for national policies and measures put in place by Member States to adapt to climate change. Improving climate resilience and adaptive capacities to climate change requires shared efforts by all sectors of the economy and society, as well as policy coherence and consistency in all relevant legislation and policies.65

The EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change recognizes migration as a ‘crosscutting element in the EU’s and Member State’s external action.’66 Perhaps not ironically, in the same paragraph the Strategy invokes the earlier described 2008 policy paper on climate change and international security by the High Representative calling on Europe to ‘expect substantially increased migratory pressure’ as ‘a consequence of climate change’67 reinforcing the point made in the previous section about the alignment of the EU law and policy on development cooperation and climate change adaptation with the deterrence paradigm, and the failure to consider climate-related human mobility into Europe from the perspective of climate change adaptation.

This section argues that an approach to climate change adaptation that is ‘guided by the best available and most recent scientific evidence’68 needs to address climate-related human mobility into Europe. First, an approach reflecting what the IPCC terms ‘incremental adaptation’ is advanced. This approach sidesteps the deterrence paradigm by focusing on scenarios relevant to people who are not in situations of irregular migration. However, adopting the consistent messaging found in IPCC sixth assessment report, the need to develop ‘transformational adaption’ inspires reflection on a more ambitious agenda.

The distinction made in the report between incremental adaptation and transformational adaptation is highly relevant for considering contemporary and potential future approaches to climate-related human mobility into Europe:

Some adaptation is incremental, which only modifies existing systems. Other actions are transformational, leading to changes in the fundamental characteristics of a system. For instance, building a seawall to protect a coastal community from flooding might exemplify incremental adaptation. Changing land use regulations in that community and establishing a programme of managed retreat might exemplify transformational adaptation.69

As the following subsections will demonstrate, a climate change adaptation approach offers new ways of thinking about, and addressing, climate-related human mobility into Europe.

4.1 Incremental Adaptation: Effective Practices for People Who Are Not in Situations of Irregular Migration

One approach to promoting the adoption of effective practices for addressing climate-related human mobility into Europe within the prevailing deterrence paradigm is to focus on scenarios where people who are not in situations of irregular migration may seek to enter or remain in an EU Member State in the context of disasters and climate change. Moving beyond international protection and humanitarian response, effective practices can also be relevant for people visiting as tourists, studying in university, or applying for family reunion.

Scenarios are foreseeable. In one scenario, a visitor learns that her home has been destroyed in a typhoon. She wishes to remain in the host country with her fiancé while repairs are made to her home and critical infrastructure is restored in the town. In another scenario, a student misses exams for his university courses because he needed to return home to help his parents in the aftermath of flooding. He seeks an extension of his student visa notwithstanding failure to make ‘adequate progress’ on his course. In a third example, a young woman seeks to join her mother and siblings as a dependent family member in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. In fact, decision-makers have already been called upon to determine these kinds of cases, as the following accounts from Sweden elaborate.

In UM2983-19, a Filipino woman was in Sweden visiting her partner. She applied for permission to extend her visa after a landslide destroyed her home in the Philippines. In Sweden, as in many other countries, immigration law restricts the ability of visitors to extend the duration of their stay, often requiring a new application to be made from outside the country. However, an exception to the general requirement can be made in cases where there are ’compelling reasons’ (vägande skäl) to extend the duration of stay. In this case, both the executive and judicial decision-makers refused the application. The judge explained that ‘the situation of not having a home in one’s country of origin is not a basis for granting a residence permit.’70

Swedish law makes exceptionality thresholds very high.71 There are no legal arguments one could leverage to insist that high exceptionality thresholds be reduced in cases where disasters or climate change prompt in country applications that are normally required to be lodged from outside the country. Indeed, such thresholds exist to promote consistency in the operation of immigration law. Nonetheless, the scenario appears to invite precisely the exercise of discretion that Sweden and other EU Member States endorsed as an ‘effective practice’ in the Protection Agenda.

In case UM12156-16, a student pursuing postgraduate education had to return to India when flooding impacted his family. As a consequence of the floods his studies were interrupted and he did not make the progress required under the terms of his visa. His appeal against the decision to refuse to extend his visa was dismissed. An exception to the adequate progress requirement can be made if there are ‘weighty reasons’, but the applicant’s circumstances did not satisfy the Court on this point.

Target 4B of Agenda 2030 expressly recognizes access for people in ‘developing’ countries to international studies in ‘developed’ countries as contributing to sustainable development. Disasters are prevalent across ‘developing’ countries, and scenarios where young people must break their studies to return home are a foreseeable consequence of climate change. Guidance on the kinds of circumstances that might justify a suspension of studies, and the kinds of steps that a student would be required to take, could ensure that significant investments in international education are not lost.

In UM22776-10, a young Haitian woman applied to join her family in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake. The Court, considering that there was inadequate evidence of dependency as required by the relevant provision, dismissed the appeal. The provision contains a clause that would allow the visa to be granted if the decision-maker considered the circumstances to be exceptional and compassionate. In this case, the judge, without detailing any specific country of origin information, concluded that the situation of the applicant appeared ‘compassionate, but not exceptional in the meaning of the Aliens Act.’

Again, there are public policy reasons for maintaining high thresholds for exceptionality in immigration law. At the same time, policy guidance could be developed to justify marginally more elastic discretion in cases where disasters or other adverse impacts of climate change underly such applications. This third scenario might not justify the same degree of discretion as the preceding two given the fact that permanent migration from abroad is applied for, and a host of other compassionate circumstances may similarly not meet the exceptionality threshold. However, Member States interested in trialling measures to implement the Protection Agenda in domestic immigration law could tailor their responses according to prevailing circumstances.

To be clear, integration of the kind of effective practices described above and endorsed in the Protection Agenda hinges entirely on political will. Where does political will come from when the prevailing paradigm favours deterrence?

The approach of promoting legal or policy measures that integrate some of the effective practices reflected in the Protection Agenda as part of a domestic climate change adaptation strategy has moderate prospects of gaining policy traction in at least some EU Member States. First, those EU Member States that have endorsed the Protection Agenda may be encouraged to acknowledge the relevance of these effective practices not only in the global South, but in their own countries as well. Small scale trials with annual caps could be deployed in a group of willing countries, perhaps those most active in the Platform on Disaster Displacement. Second, the approach also aligns well with commitments of EU Member States under the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, particularly Objective 5 on availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration. Paragraphs 21 (g)–(h) under Objective 5 read:

(g) Develop or build on existing national and regional practices for admission and stay of appropriate duration based on compassionate, humanitarian or other considerations for migrants compelled to leave their countries of origin owing to sudden-onset natural disasters and other precarious situations, such as by providing humanitarian visas, private sponsorships, access to education for children, and temporary work permits, while adaptation in or return to their country of origin is not possible;

(h) Cooperate to identify, develop and strengthen solutions for migrants compelled to leave their countries of origin owing to slow-onset natural disasters, the adverse effects of climate change, and environmental degradation, such as desertification, land degradation, drought and sea level rise, including by devising planned relocation and visa options, in cases where adaptation in or return to their country of origin is not possible;

Moknacheva72 found limited evidence of progress anywhere against these objectives, but the Progress Declaration emerging from the 2022 International Migration Review Forum, which reviewed implementation of the GCM to date, reflected the following commitment:

We will strengthen our efforts to enhance and diversify the availability of pathways for safe, orderly and regular migration … for migrants in vulnerable situations, as well as those affected by disasters, climate change and environmental degradation, including by working coherently across all relevant multilateral forums, concluding labour mobility agreements, optimizing education opportunities, facilitating access to procedures for family reunification through appropriate measures that promote the realization of the right to family life and the best interests of the child, and regularizing migrants in an irregular situation, in line with national laws.73

The claimants described above would all have potentially benefitted from such measures.

4.2 A Transformational Approach

Human mobility is a defining feature of the climate emergency. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

Under all global warming levels, some regions that are presently densely populated will become unsafe or uninhabitable, with movement from these regions occurring autonomously or through planned relocation.74

As multiple factors, including the deterrence paradigm itself, interact to shape human mobility patterns around the world,75 the number of people who will move from more climate vulnerable parts of the world into Europe is unpredictable. What is indisputable at present, and foreseeable in the future, is that there are more people who are willing to risk their lives attempting to enter Europe than there are legal pathways to accommodate them. Notwithstanding technical cooperation in sustainable development, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation to countries in the global South, increased climate-related human mobility into Europe is foreseeable, and is indeed already taking place.

Europe should address the issue as an integral dimension of the kind of transformational adaptation of social systems identified by the IPCC as being required to achieve ‘climate-resilient’ sustainable development for all. This source of best available and most recent scientific evidence explains:

There is a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity to enable climate resilient development. Multiple climate resilient development pathways are still possible by which communities, the private sector, governments, nations and the world can pursue climate resilient development – each involving and resulting from different societal choices influenced by different contexts and opportunities and constraints on system transitions. Climate resilient development pathways are progressively constrained by every increment of warming, in particular beyond 1.5°C, social and economic inequalities, the balance between adaptation and mitigation varying by national, regional and local circumstances and geographies, according to capabilities including resources, vulnerability, culture and values, past development choices leading to past emissions and future warming scenarios, bounding the climate resilient development pathways remaining, and the ways in which development trajectories are shaped by equity, and social and climate justice (very high confidence).76

Current incremental adaptation measures are inadequate:

Continuing and expanding current adaptation efforts can reduce some climate risks. But even with emission reductions sufficient to meet the Paris Agreement goals, transformational adaptation will be necessary.77

The concept of transformational adaptation is developed across the 3000 page report. A concise description is provided in the Technical Summary:

Deep-rooted transformational adaptation opens new options for adapting to the impacts and risks of climate change (high confidence) by changing the fundamental attributes of a system, including altered goals or values and addressing the root causes of vulnerability. AR6 focuses on five system transitions to a just and climate resilient future: societal, energy, land and ocean ecosystems, urban and infrastructure, and industrial. These transitions call for transformations in existing social and social-technological and environmental systems that include shifts in most aspects of society.78

This kind of approach is urgent, given the scale of challenges presented by climate change at local, national and international levels. Inevitably, transformational change is disruptive:

Deliberate transformational adaptation is not without risks because change can disturb existing power relationships and can unfold in difficult to predict and unintended ways. But transformational adaptation is important to consider because it may be needed to avoid intolerable risks from climate change and to help meet development goals as articulated in the SDG s.79

Legal pathways and effective practices of the type described in the EU policy documents and the Protection Agenda described earlier in this article are examples of incremental adaptation, similar to the building of a sea wall. The prevailing deterrence paradigm that fuels organized people smuggling and human trafficking, and which directly contributes to human rights violations in transit is not dismantled.

At present, Europe’s response reinforces the external borders of the European Union with a planned 22.6 billion Euro budget for Migration and Border Management until 2027,80 whilst endorsing no measures to promote the implementation of the Protection Agenda within the Member States.81 Apart from Italy, Member States appear similarly to have elected not to address the issue within domestic immigration law, although further research across Member States is clearly indicated.

Increasing financing for border control measures and strengthening emergency response capabilities under the Migration Preparedness and Crisis Blueprint82 represents, at best, an incremental adaptation strategy and, at worst, an example of maladaptation. Drawing exclusively from the IPCC report, the following dimensions of transformation are relevant to thinking beyond the deterrence paradigm.

First, the notion of adaptation itself is informative. The IPCC report defines adaptation of human systems as ‘the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects in order to moderate harm or take advantage of beneficial opportunities.’ Although the EU and its Member States currently do not frame migration and border management as part of any regional or national climate change adaptation strategy, these actors would assert that efforts to prevent irregular migration, including investments in climate change adaptation in countries of origin, as well as investments in border control technologies at the external borders, are designed to ‘moderate harm’, which they systematically attribute to human smugglers taking advantage of people’s misplaced hopes of securing a sustainable future in Europe.83 However, the deterrence paradigm may readily be cast as a form of maladaptation,84 owing to the thousands of deaths at the external borders every year and the fact that

The last year saw a significant rise in illegal border crossings into the EU, as well as a rise in secondary movements of irregular migrants between countries in the EU. This increase in demand, and the resultant rise in profits, has led to further professionalisation of the smuggling networks behind irregular migration and THB. With this comes an increased risk of violence, as groups vie for control of smuggling routes and increasingly use aggression against law enforcement.85

Few people in situations of irregular migration would perceive the border control technologies of the European Union as being designed to ‘moderate harm’, and many would argue that such measures result in the kind of inequitable outcomes that characterize maladaptation. At present, the kind of transformational adaptation that would see Europe abandon the deterrence paradigm is nowhere in sight. However, transformation at more local scales is already taking place.

4.3 Cities as Catalysts of Transformational Adaptation in Climate-related Human Mobility Governance

International lawyers have only recently begun to focus attention on the varieties of roles that cities and other forms of local government play in implementing, as well as shaping, the development of international law. As Helmut Aust and Janne Nijman note in their introduction to the Research Handbook on International Law and Cities, this delay compared to the decades long engagement by other disciplines such as geography, sociology and international relations, is:

possibly due to the traditional state-centric outlook that the mainstream of the discipline has cultivated with respect to sources and subjectivity, two key categories that serve the purpose of defining what is part of international law and what is irrelevant – as mere politics, governance or morals.86

The authors highlight environment, human rights, and migration, as key areas where cities are playing an important and increasing role. There is good reason to consider the potential for transformational adaptation in the field of cross-border climate-related human mobility to come ‘from below’, rather than expecting significant changes at the level of the EU or its Member States. Two examples provide insight into efforts already underway to challenge the deterrence paradigm.

First, the Global Mayors Action Agenda on Climate and Migration represents the commitment of cities aligned with the Mayors Migration Council87 and the C40 Group of Cities.88 The Agenda represents a commitment of mayors in cities around the world to address the specific challenges relating to climate-related human mobility in the absence of transformational adaptation at the national level:

While research and media attention are growing, states remain at odds about how to frame and address the climate-related movement of people. We come together as C40-MMC mayors to raise awareness on the urban dimension of the climate crisis and human mobility and to showcase a way forward by proposing concrete actions. Some of us are motivated by the realities of climate displacement into and within our cities. Others have experienced large movements of people that were not driven by climate factors but hold valuable lessons for how we might approach a future of greater human mobility. All of us are focused on making our cities’ green transition just and inclusive, using climate action to advance the social and economic inclusion of migrants and other marginalised communities.89

The Action Agenda can catalyse transformational approaches to human mobility through its calls to action on Urban Resilience, Urban Inclusion and Urban Transformation. Some action points include:

  • Recognize migration as a form of adaptation when mitigation or in-place adaptation is no longer viable, incorporate migration-related considerations into national climate action strategies, and include migrants in disaster risk reduction and response.

  • Recognize and address the protection needs of climate migrants and displaced people.

  • Harness the skills and contributions of migrants and displaced people for the green transition.

The ambition of this initiative is high, but it’s transformational potential depends on its ability to scale beyond the current taskforce that consists of 10 cities.90 Action is currently focused on international diplomacy, for instance at COP27 in Egypt,91 as well as on implementation of local initiatives to support the integration of people displaced into cities in the global South.92

Second, the United Cities and Local Government Lampedusa Charter for Dignified Human Mobility and Territorial Solidarity articulates a local government approach to migration as part of its wider ‘Pact for the Future’:

Against the rampant growth of inequalities triggered by conflict and fragility, extractivism, injustice, natural disasters and climate change, the municipalist movement acknowledges the urgency of a new social contract. Conscious that our transformative power as a network lies in our diversity, We affirm that this new Pact will only be possible when it includes, recognizes and protects the rights of all.93

The Charter, endorsed in 2022 by the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments:

is a further milestone in a long path of local efforts and global advocacy to overcome border-centered approaches to migration and forced displacement. By placing the focus on people, the Lampedusa Charter establishes a notion of citizenship that acknowledges all communities as neighbors, as right holders and community developers.94

Consisting of 7 ‘driving principles’ and 35 ‘core priorities’, the Charter reaffirms

the need to put people at the center of climate action, and ensure that actions to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis facilitate the integration and inclusion of migrants and displaced people in cities.95

Adherents to the Charter commit to a range of actions, including to:

Review the links between citizenship, residence and nationality as well as between cultures and social cohesion, including the implications of shifting from citizenship-based to residence-based participation in local and regional levels.96

Considering the fact that United Cities and Local Government ‘has members in two-thirds of the UN member states, including over 1000 leading cities and virtually all the existing national Local Government Associations in the world’ representing ‘over half of the world’s total population’,97 the Lampedusa Charter lays the foundations for transformational adaptation in the field of climate-related human mobility.

The potential role of European cities in addressing at least some of the challenges surrounding climate-related human mobility warrants further research. As indicated by the existence of Aust and Nijman’s research handbook on cities and international law, a rich body of research examining the varieties of ways in which local authorities invoke and implement international law already exists. As Oomen, Baumgärtel and Durmus observe with examples of ‘accelerating cities’ in Spain, France and the Netherlands, local authorities have already begun to assert themselves in opposition to national-level law and policy that impacts adversely on people in situations of irregular migration, drawing on arguments grounded in international human rights law, as well as broader narratives about identity and responsibility.98 These authors also note, however, that national actors within the executive as well as the judiciary often resist such initiatives, and local authority assertiveness beyond their mandates may even trigger a backlash, or what the authors term ‘constitutional brakes.’ Hence, although city-led initiatives can create pressure for transformational adaptation in relation to climate-related human mobility into Europe, the process is likely to be uneven, contentious and complex.

5 Conclusion

This article has explored the tension at the intersection of the deterrence paradigm and the Protection Agenda in the EU and EU Member States. It observed that the Protection Agenda, which endorses a range of ‘effective practices’ that states should consider adopting in order to address cross-border human mobility in the context of disasters and climate change, does not appear to have been systematically integrated into the law, policy and practice of the EU or EU Member States. Rather, the well-documented dominant paradigm of deterrence, which involves a range of mechanisms within and outside of the EU and its Member States, overshadows and, to some extent, engulfs the Protection Agenda and wider ambitions to address this phenomenon. The article has demonstrated how EU-level policy initiatives, as well as priorities expressed by some EU Member States, either frame work to address climate-related human mobility as purely an issue for the EU’s external dimension, or as a tool to achieve domestic priorities of preventing irregular migration from climate vulnerable countries. In such a context, the article asked how the tension between the Protection Agenda and the deterrence paradigm might be resolved.

Having taken note of a variety of proposals to address cross-border climate-related human mobility, the article articulated a novel approach grounded in the European Climate Law and its express commitment to be ‘guided by the best available and most recent scientific evidence.’ Beginning with incremental adaptation, the article highlighted the possibility of developing effective practices outside of the deterrence paradigm, by focusing on measures relating to people who do not find themselves in irregular migration situations, such as visitors, students, and applicants seeking family reunion in the context of disasters at home. Effective practices identified in the Protection Agenda have been developed for all of these scenarios and could be implemented in national contexts, particularly in the EU Member States that have endorsed the Protection Agenda.

Drawing on the latest IPCC reports, the article takes seriously the imperative of transformational rather than incremental adaptation. Consequently, alternatives to the deterrence paradigm need to be explored. With no evidence at EU or EU Member State level of a downscaling of this approach, the article looked to sub-national actors, where expansive commitments to climate justice, including cross-border climate-related human mobility, have been expressed. As cities take a more active role in invoking, developing and implementing international law, how cities address climate-related human mobility represents a critical dimension of climate change adaptation, and a likely source of innovation. However, even if transformation unfolds in accordance with the ambitions articulated in the Global Mayors Action Agenda on Climate and Migration, or the UCLG Lampedusa Charter on Dignified Human Mobility and Territorial Solidarity, ‘accelerating cities’ are likely to meet the kinds of ‘constitutional brakes’ described by Oomen, Baumgärtel & Durmus.99 Substantial empirical work on how the EU, its Member States, and cities and city networks address the already observed phenomenon of climate-related human mobility into Europe is called for.


This article is based on research conducted in the context of the project ‘ClimMobil – Judicial and policy responses to climate change-related mobility in the European Union with a focus on Austria and Sweden’ (kr18ac0k14747) funded by the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund, acrp 11th Call. The project is implemented by the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Fundamental and Human Rights (Vienna/Austria) and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (Lund/Sweden).


Cf. Frank Bierman and Ingrid Boas, “Preparing for a warmer world: Towards a global governance system to protect climate refugees” (2010) 10 Global Environmental Politics 60; Norman Myers, “Environmental Refugees in a Globally Warmed World” (1993) 43 BioScience.


See extensive references in Georgina Cundill et al., “Toward a climate mobilities research agenda: Intersectionality, immobility, and policy responses” (2021) 69 Global Environmental Change 102315.


See, for instance, literature surveyed in Kayly Ober, The Links between climate change, disasters, migration, and social resilience in Asia: A literature review (Asian Development Bank 2019, Economics Working Paper Series No. 586).


See, for instance, Tammy Tabe, “Climate change migration and displacement: Learning from past relocations in the Pacific” (2019) 8 Social Sciences 218; Robert Oakes, Kees van der Geest, Cosmin Corendea, “Any port in a storm? Climate, mobility, and choice in Pacific Small Island Developing States” in S. Berhman and A. Kent (eds) Climate refugees: Global, local and critical approaches (Cambridge University Press 2022).


See, for instance, literature surveyed in Caroline Zickgraf, “Climate change and migration crisis in Africa” in C. Menjívar, M. Ruiz and I. Ness (eds) The Oxford handbook of migration crises (Oxford University Press 2019).


See, for instance, Erika Pires Ramos and Lilian Yamamoto, “Deforestation, drought and environmental migration in Brazil” in Robert McLeman and François Gemenne (eds) Routledge handbook of environmental displacement and migration (Routledge 2018); Warren Dodd et al. “Interrogating the dimensions of human security within the context of migration and rural livelihoods in Honduras” (2019) 9 Migration and Development 152.


Important work has been done particularly by Hélène Ragheboom, The international legal status and protection of environmentally-displaced persons: A European perspective (Brill 2017). See also Vikram Kolmannskog and Finn Myrstad, “Environmental displacement in European asylum law” (2009) 11 European Journal of Migration and Law 313 and Matthew

Scott “Refuge from climate change-related harm: Evaluating the scope of international protection within the Common European Asylum System” in C. Bauloz, M. Ciger, S. Singer, V. Stoyanova (eds) Seeking asylum in the European Union: Selected protection issues raised by the second phase of the Common European Asylum System (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 2015). At the policy level, see also Albert Kraler, Caitlin Katsiaficas, and Martin Wagner, Climate change and migration: Legal and policy challenges and responses to environmentally induced migration (European Parliament, 2020), p. 76. However, none of these works provide insight into the scale or character of climate-related human mobility into Europe as empirical research in the global South has.


Matthew Scott, Climate change, disasters, and the Refugee Convention (Cambridge University Press 2020).


Monika Mayrhofer and Margit Ammer, “Climate mobility to Europe: The case of disaster displacement in Austrian asylum procedures” (2022) 4 Frontiers in Climate


Matthew Scott and Russell Garner, “Nordic norms, natural disasters and international protection: Swedish and Finnish practice in European perspective” (2022) 91 Nordic Journal of International Law 101.


Camilla Schloss, “Climate migrants: How German courts take the environment into account when considering non-refoulement”, Volkrechtsbloggen, 3 March 2021, <www>, visited on 21 May 2022.


Chiara Scissa, “The climate changes, should EU migration law change as well? Insights from Italy” (2022) 14 European Journal of Legal Studies 5.


Frank Bierman and Ingrid Boas, “Preparing for a warmer world: Towards a global governance system to protect climate refugees” (2010) 10 Global Environmental Politics 60.


Michel Prieur, “Draft Convention on the International Status of Environmentally-Displaced Persons” (2010) 42 The Urban Lawyer 247.


Phillip Dane Warren “Forced migration after Paris COP 21: Evaluating the ‘Climate Change Displacement Coordination Facility’” (2016) 116 Columbia Law Review 2103.


I Gede Eka Sarjana (2018) “Climate change and human migration: Towards more humane interpretation of refugee” (2018) 2 Udayana Journal of Law and Culture 220.


Ragheboom, n 8.


Sumudu Atapattu (2020) “Climate change and displacement: protecting ‘climate refugees’ within a framework of justice and human rights” (2020) 11 Journal of Human Rights and the Environment 86.


Carmen G. Gonzalez (2021) “Racial capitalism, climate justice, and climate displacement” (2021) 11 Oñati Socio-Legal Series 108.


Bayes Ahmed “Who takes responsibility for the climate refugees?”, (2017) 10 International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management 5-26013.


Robyn Eckersley, “The common but differentiated responsibilities of states to assist and receive ‘climate refugees’” (2015) 14 European Journal of Political Theory 481.


Rebecca Buxton, “Reparative justice for climate refugees”, (2019) 94 Philosophy 193.


For an early articulation of the concept, see Richard Black, Stephen Bennett, Sandy Thomas and John Beddington, “Migration as adaptation” (2011) 478 Nature 447.


Cf. Olivia Dun et al. “Investing in home: development outcomes and climate change adaptation for seasonal workers living between Solomon Islands and Australia” (2020) Migration & Development DOI: 10.1080/21632324.2020.1837535; Shawn Shen and Tony Binns “Pathways, motivations and challenges: contemporary Tuvaluan migration to New Zealand” (2012) 77 GeoJournal 63.


Leo Goff, Hilary Zarin and Sherri Goodman “Climate-induced migration from Northern Africa to Europe: Security challenges and opportunities” (2012) 18 Brown Journal of World Affairs 195, 195.


Daria Moknacheva, Implementing the commitments related to addressing human mobility in the context of disasters, climate change and environmental degradation (Platform on Disaster Displacement 2022).


Samuel Huckstep and Helen Dempster, “Climate migration at the 2022 International Migration Review Forum” Center for Global Development blog post 24 May 2022, Available at: <> (Accessed: 29 May 2022).


Nansen Initiative, Agenda for the protection of cross-border displaced persons in the context of disasters and climate change (2015), 6.


See Protocol on Free Movement of Persons in the IGAD Region; SACM Regional Guidelines on Protection and Assistance to Cross-Border Displaced Persons and Migrants in Countries Affected by Natural Disasters; The Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (2017–2030).


Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen and Nikolas Feith Tan, “Extraterritorial migration control and deterrence” in Cathryn Costello, Michelle Foster and Jane McAdam (eds.) Oxford Handbook in International Refugee Law (Oxford University Press 2021).


For details of states that have endorsed the Protection Agenda, see (Accessed: 16 November 2022).


Nansen Initiative, n 29, p. 20; pp. 30–32.


Brief, dated, but nonetheless noteworthy treatment of the approach adopted in multiple EU Member States is found in Michael D. Cooper, Migration and disaster-induced displacement: European policy, practice, and perspective (Center for Global Development working paper 308, 2012).


See Albert Kraler, Caitlin Katsiaficas, and Martin Wagner, Climate change and migration: Legal and policy challenges and responses to environmentally induced migration (European Parliament, 2020), p. 76.


Mayrhofer & Ammer, n 10.


Scott & Garner, n 11.


Scissa, n 13.


IPCC, Climate change 2022: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability: Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2022).


OHCHR, “Lethal disregard”: Search and rescue and the protection of migrants in the central Mediterranean Sea (2021), Available at: (Accessed: 21 May 2022).


UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, Regional study: management of the external borders of the European Union and its impact on the human rights of migrants A/HRC/23/46 (2013), [75].


François Crépeau, Banking on mobility over a generation: follow-up to the regional study on the management of the external borders of the European Union and its impact on the human rights of migrants, A/HRC/29/36 (2015), 4.


UN Human Rights Council, Human rights violations at international borders: trends, prevention and accountability Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Felipe González Morales A/HRC/50/31 (2022), [24].


Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen and Nikolas Feith Tan, “Extraterritorial migration control and deterrence” in Cathryn Costello, Michelle Foster and Jane McAdam (eds.) Oxford Handbook in International Refugee Law (Oxford University Press 2021), 502–503.


See for instance Gregor Noll, Negotiating Asylum The EU Acquis, Extraterritorial Protection and the Common Market of Deflection (Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 2000); Itamar Mann, Humanity at sea: Maritime migration and the foundations of international law (Cambridge University Press 2016); Reece Jones, Violent borders: Refugees and the right to move (Verso 2017); Victoria Canning, “Degradation by design: women and asylum in northern Europe” (2019) 61 Race & Class 46.


Early reflections on the subject can be found in Matthew Scott and Carl Söderbergh, ‘How does border externalization relate to the climate emergency?’ Blogpost on The Comparative Network on Refugee Externalisation Policies (CONREP) website (1 March 2021). Available at: (Accessed 16 November 2022).


Myers, n 2.


See Sylvain Ponserre and Justin Ginnetti, Disaster displacement: A global review, 2008–2018 (IDMC 2019).


European Commission, Climate change and international security: Paper from the High Representative and the European Commission to the European Council, S113/08 (2008), 4.


IPCC, First Assessment Report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 1990), 103.


UNFCCC, The Cancun Agreements: Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.1 (2011).


François Gemenne, “One good reason to speak of ‘climate refugees’” 49 (2015) Forced Migration Review 17.


Koko Warner, “Human migration and displacement in the context of adaptation to climate change: the Cancun Adaptation Framework and potential for future action” (2012) 30 Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 1061, 1061.


UN Security Council, Addressing the impacts of climate-related disasters on international peace and security S/PV.8451 (2019), 26–27.


See Foresight: Migration and global environmental change (2011) Final Project Report, The Government Office for Science, London.




European Commission, Commission staff working document: Climate change, environmental degradation, and migration SWD(2013) 138 final (2013), 34.


European Commission, A new pact on migration and asylum COM(2020) 609 final (2020), 19–20.


Thomas Spijkerboer, “Migration management clientelism” (2021) Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, DOI: 10.1080/1369183X.2021.1972567, 12.


Government of Denmark, The world we share: Denmark’s strategy for development cooperation (2021), 5.


Ibid, 19.


European Commission, Commission staff working document: Addressing displacement and migration related to disasters, climate change and environmental degradation (SWD(2022) 201 final) 2022, 21.


The Platform on Disaster Displacement is the successor to the Nansen Initiative. See more here: The European Union assumed the presidency of the Platform on Disaster Displacement in June 2022. See more here:


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Forging a climate-resilient Europe – the new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change (COM(2021) 82 final), p. 3.


Regulation (EU) 2021/1119 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 June 2021 establishing the framework for achieving climate neutrality and amending Regulations (EC) No 401/2009 and (EU) 2018/1999 (‘European Climate Law’), (31).


EU Strategy on Adaptation, n 65, p. 17.


N 50.


European Climate Law, n 66, (31).


IPCC, AR6, n 39, p. 179.


UM2983-19, p. 2.


In this context see Gerhard Wikrén and Håkan Sandesjö, Utlänningslagen : med kommentarer (Norstedts Juridik AB, 12th edition, 2020), pp. 393–394.


Daria Moknacheva, Implementing the commitments related to addressing human mobility in the context of disasters, climate change and environmental degradation (Platform on Disaster Displacement 2022).


UN General Assembly, Progress Declaration of the International Migration Review Forum A/RES/76/266 (2022), [59].


IPCC, AR6, n 39, p. 64.


See Mathias Czaika and Hein de Haas, “The globalization of migration: Has the world become more migratory?” (2014) 48 International Migration Review 283.


P. 29.


IPCC, AR6, n 39, p. 179.


P. 99.


IPCC, AR6, n 39, p. 179.


European Council, Council Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2020/2093 of 17 December 2020 laying down the multiannual financial framework for the years 2021 to 2027.


See European Commission, Staff Working Document, n 63.


European Commission, Commission Recommendation (EU) 2020/1366 of 23 September 2020 on an EU mechanism for preparedness and management of crises related to migration.


See Galya Ben-Arieh and Volker Heins, “Criminalisation of kindness: narratives of legality in the European politics of migration containment” (2021) 42 Third World Quarterly 200.


According to the IPCC AR6, n 39, ‘Maladaptation refers to actions that may lead to increased risk of adverse climate-related outcomes, including via increased greenhouse gas emissions, increased or shifted vulnerability to climate change, more inequitable outcomes, or diminished welfare, now or in the future. Most often, maladaptation is an unintended consequence’, p. 7.


Europol, European Migrant Smuggling Centre 6th annual report (2022), p. 25.


Helmut Aust and Janne Nijman, Research handbook on international law and cities (Elgar 2021).


The Mayors Migration Council “is a mayor-led coalition that accelerates ambitious global action on migration and displacement to create a world where urban migrants, displaced people, and receiving communities can thrive.” See


C40 “is a network of mayors of nearly 100 world-leading cities collaborating to deliver the urgent action needed right now to confront the climate crisis.” See


For more information on the Action Agenda visit


London, Amman, São Paulo, Barcelona, Bristol, Dhaka North, Freetown, Houston, Los Angeles, Milan. See


See Press release: Mayors Unite in Call for Accelerated Global Action for People Displaced by Climate Change Ahead of COP27 (20 October 2022). Available at: (Accessed: 16 November 2022).


See The Global Cities Fund for Migrants and Refugees. Available at: (Accessed: 16 November 2022).


United Cities and Local Government, Lampedusa Charter on Dignified Human Mobility and Territorial Solidarity (2022), p. 2.


Ibid., p. 3.


United Cities and Local Government, Lampedusa Charter on Dignified Human Mobility and Territorial Solidarity (2022), p. 18.


Ibid., p. 20.


United Cities and Local Government, webpage “Join UCLG”:


Barbara Oomen, Moritz Baungärtel and Elif Durmus, “Accelerating cities, constitutional brakes? Exploring the local authorities between global challenges and domestic law” in Ernst Hirsch Ballin, Gerhard van der Schyff, Maarten Stremler and Maartje De Visser (eds) European Yearbook of Constitutional Law 2020: The City in Constitutional Law (T.M.C. Asser Press 2021).


N 99.

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