Climate change is real and impacts of climate change will be severe, pervasive and irreversible. As a result of the Climate Change, migration can be one of the main challenges that the entire world will face in the near future. Many families including women and children are suffering due to environmental disasters some possibly induced by climate change. As reported by UNHCR, it is estimated that one person in every second has been displaced by a disaster and nearly 2.5 million people are displaced by climate or weather change related catastrophes since 2008. It is important to understand the seriousness of this issue and prepare and take necessary action to face climate change while addressing the issue of migration due to climate change. The term climate refugee or environmental refugee is a controversial in international system and its a very political phrase too.
There is no internationally accepted definition for ‘climate refugee’ under international law. People who are migrating due to environmental reasons do not fall into a specific legal category under the existing international legal framework. The people who are identified as ‘climate refugees’ or ‘environmental refugees’ have no legal protection under 1951 Refugee Convention and asylum law. The principle of international environmental law, establishes that all States are responsible for addressing global environmental destruction, yet not equally responsible for addressing environmental protection. As a result, ensuring protection for affected people by climate change is challenging and it is hard even for the State to accommodate the legal protection for those people under the traditional international legal framework (IOM outlook on environment, migration, and climate change, 2014).
Due to absences of a legal definitions for climate refugees or environmental refugees, International Organization for Migration (IOM) has presented a working definition for ‘environmental migrant’ in order to create a specific legal status for this particular group. It was presented to the IOM membership at 94th Council Session, the definition is “environmental migrants are persons or groups of persons who, for reasons of sudden or progressive changes in the environment that adversely affect their lives or living conditions, are obliged to have to leave their habitual homes, or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, and who move either within their territory or abroad” (World Migration 2008, 493). However, this article aims to provide an overview of climate change and existing regal protection for climate refugee in next section, as it is very important to understand the issue of climate change and its severe impact on migration in a holistic manner in order address the both short term and long term issues of Climate refugees.