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Our Work » Policy and Advocacy » Climate Displacement Advocacy
Climate Displacement Advocacy

CGRS is pursuing advocacy and litigation to expand avenues to protection for people displaced by the climate crisis.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, over 90 percent of the world’s refugees hail from the countries most vulnerable to climate devastation. Experts predict that the unsafe conditions forcing refugees to flee their homes will only deteriorate in the coming years. By 2050, it is estimated that more than 200 million people will be forcibly displaced by extreme weather and environmental disasters such as droughts, storms, earthquakes, and rises in sea level annually. More and more, this displacement is happening across international borders. Yet the United States currently has no formal protection mechanisms to offer permanent safe haven to those displaced by climate change.

In 2021 CGRS launched our climate advocacy initiative, through which we are developing legal strategies to confront the climate displacement crisis. Our goal is to advance legal avenues to protection for climate or disaster-displaced people seeking refuge in the United States and in the Americas. Our work includes:

  • Empowering advocates representing people displaced by climate change and disasters: Through our technical assistance (TA) and training program, we are developing practical guidance and country conditions documentation to support asylum seekers displaced by climate change. Advocates can access these resources through our TA Library.
  • Expanding access to relief through the U.S. asylum system: We are also pursuing litigation and advocacy to educate policymakers and adjudicators on the dynamics of the climate crisis and advance an interpretation of the law that recognizes climate displacement as a factor in refugee protection.
  • Advocating for new protection pathways: Given limitations of the refugee definition under international law, we are advocating for new protection pathways for climate-displaced individuals outside of the asylum system.
  • Engaging with partners on the ground: Critical to all of this work is our collaboration with civil society partners in the Americas who are documenting and responding to the reality of climate change in their communities.

Ensuring protection for people forced across borders in the context of climate change

Building on our practice advisory on asylum claims for people fleeing climate change, CGRS will now develop international-level guidelines explaining how the Refugee Convention, human rights treaties, and regional refugee and human rights law can apply in the context of climate/disaster-related displacement. This will provide an overarching framework to guide the development of additional national-level guidelines similar to our U.S. practice advisory showing how domestic asylum laws can be interpreted and leveraged to secure protection in this context.

This project is being undertaken in collaboration with the Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at the University of New South Wales, and Essex Law School and Human Rights Centre, with the support of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Our Resources

CGRS is developing resources and practical guidance to support people displaced by climate change and seeking refuge across borders.

How the Inter-American Court Can Advance Protection for Climate Displaced Individuals

This explainer, published in Just Security, outlines the Inter-American Court's potential to clarify State obligations and set guidelines to address cross-border climate displacement in a rights-based manner.

Expanding Refugee Protection for a Changing Climate

CGRS, the Kaldor Centre at the University of New South Wales, the Human Rights Centre at the University of Essex, and UNHCR, are creating guidelines on how existing refugee and human rights law principles can protect people displaced by climate change.

CGRS staff member Felipe Navarro and CGRS partners at IACtHR panel table.
CGRS Urges Inter-American Court to Address Climate Displacement

CGRS presented testimony before the Inter-American Court to inform its upcoming advisory opinion regarding States’ human rights obligations in the context of the climate emergency.

Honduras: Climate Change and Human Rights Violations

This report sheds light on the effects of the climate emergency in Honduras. It includes recommendations for both the U.S. and Honduran governments, urging decisive action to protect the environment and safeguard the human rights of those affected.

Climate Displacement: Legal and Policy Options in the U.S.

This policy memo reviews seven existing and potential legal and policy options for improving the United States’ response to people displaced across borders by climate change.

CGRS Submits Brief to Inter-American Court

CGRS and our partners filed an amicus brief to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on States' human rights obligations in the face of climate displacement.

CGRS’s Climate Practice Advisory in Brief

This two-pager explains that even though the refugee definition was not written with climate change in mind, a strong asylum claim is possible where it is one-factor forcing people to flee.

Connect With Climate Experts

CGRS’s free expert database includes country conditions experts specializing in climate displacement. We encourage advocates to take advantage of this resource and experts to register for the database!