In the context of the US return to the Paris Accord on Climate Change, President Joseph Biden issued an executive order (EO) requiring a multi-agency report on climate change and its impact on human mobility. The report is to focus on forced migration, internal displacement, and planned relocation. Among the issues the EO stipulates will be addressed are the international security implications of climate-related movement; options and mechanisms to protect and, if necessary, resettle individuals displaced by climate change; proposals for the use of US foreign assistance to reduce the negative impacts of climate change; and opportunities to work collaboratively with others to respond to these movements. The order is a welcome step towards providing greater protection in the face of escalating impacts of climate change. It could also become a blueprint for other countries.
In its Climate-Induced Migration Initiative, CMS seeks to explore the connection between climate change and migration, provide analysis of international efforts to address climate-induced migration, and share policy ideas that address the challenges of communities most affected by environmental degradation.
People’s circumstances, available choices, and decisions on movement are affected by climate change. However, it is too simplistic and empirically inaccurate to suggest that climate change causes human movement. First, while scientific efforts are evolving, in general attributing a specific event or phenomena solely to climate change is difficult. Second, the impacts of climate change are never the sole ‘cause’ of human movements. Third, personal and household characteristics, as well as obstacles and facilitators, influence decisions on movement.
In light of the science and evidence on hazards and climate risk, and the scale and breadth of large-scale disasters witnessed around the world, it is time for states and other actors to begin developing national and local frameworks on planned relocation. While planned relocations have had a poor record in terms of their socioeconomic effects, it is precisely for these reasons that proactive action is necessary. Planned relocation has the potential to save lives and assets, and consequently to safeguard or augment the human security of populations living in areas at high risk for disasters and the effects of climate change. Among the challenges hampering better outcomes for people, however, are the lack of national and local frameworks, community-driven decision making, and sufficient lead times to plan and implement appropriate interventions that promote human security.
This paper evaluates the purpose and effectiveness of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) statute and identifies inadequacies in the TPS regime and related protection gaps in the US asylum system. It argues that TPS has not proven to be an effective mechanism for the United States to protect foreigners from generalized conditions of danger in their home countries. It calls for changing the US protection regime to make it more responsive to the risks many asylum seekers actually face by creating a broader “complementary protection” standard and a more effective procedure for assessing individual protection claims, while reserving “temporary protection” for rare situations of mass influx that overwhelm the government’s capacity to process individual asylum claims. Considering alternative models for complementary protection from other jurisdictions, this article proposes that the United States adopt an individualized complementary protection standard for arriving asylum seekers who are not able to meet the 1951 Refugee Convention standard but who would face a serious threat to life or physical integrity if returned because of a real risk of (1) cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; (2) violence; or (3) exceptional situations, for which there is no adequate domestic remedy.