The Concept of Climate Migration: Advocacy and its Prospects

Benoît Mayer
Edward Elgar Publishing
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This timely book offers a unique interdisciplinary inquiry into the prospects of different political narratives on climate migration. It identifies the essential angles on climate migration – the humanitarian narrative, the migration narrative and the climate change narrative – and assesses their prospects. The author contends that although such arguments will influence global governance, they will not necessarily achieve what advocates hope for. He discusses how the weaknesses of the concept of “climate migration” are likely to be utilized in favour of repressive policies against migration or for the defence of industrial nations against perceived threats from the Third World. 

‘In this important book, Benoît Mayer forces us to confront the implications of labelling in the climate migration context, and skillfully leverages this debate to shine a light on broader questions of the evolving role of global governance. His forthright analysis is both refreshing and appropriately challenging.’
James C. Hathaway, University of Michigan Law School, US

‘The discussion on the legal aspects of climate migration is often limited to the issue of the legal status. Yet the debate extends way further, and Mayer offers a much-needed broader look at the different dimensions of this concept, their legal implications and political caveats.’
François Gemenne, University of Liège, Belgium, and Sciences Po, France

‘The book addresses the very timely and controversial concept of climate migrants. With great skill and thoroughness, Mayer discloses the ambivalence that lies in this concept: It may foster desirable developments as well as undesirable ones, depending on the way it is being used in political advocacy. The danger is that the concept of climate migrants could heighten the general anxiety about climate change and be detrimental to causes such as human rights protection and climate change responsibility. Yet, it could facilitate stronger international cooperation, international assistance and solidarity. (The concept of “climate migrants” carries with it an understanding of complex, global interdependence and arguments for states to not ignore the protection of vulnerable peoples outside their jurisdiction. Moreover, the concept might also contribute to a greater understanding of states’ responsibility under international law to drastically reduce their excessive greenhouse gas emissions.)
All in all, the book sheds light on one of the major challenges that today’s system of global governance faces: the inertia to address collective issues in a cooperative and effective manner. The solution to this challenge may lie beyond the scope of this book, but it certainly is an important step in analysing the underlying legal and political dimensions and constrains to providing such solution.’
Christina Voigt, University of Oslo, Norway

‘Professor Mayer clearly and persuasively argues that . . . the effects of climate change on migration cannot and should not be addressed in isolation from broader concerns over migrant welfare and environmental protection. His insightful, interdisciplinary book requires us to rethink our assumptions about the relationship of climate change and migration, and provides a strong platform for future scholarship and policy.’
John H. Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment and Wake Forest University, US

‘With stories about migration and climate change making daily headlines, Benoît Mayer’s insightful analysis of the concept of “climate migration” is particularly timely. Mayer’s careful and critical deconstruction of the concept offers a fresh scholarly perspective on how the challenges of migration and climate change are intertwined. Its clear guidance on how the elusive concept can be used in political advocacy should put the book on the reading list of anyone concerned with tackling two of the most important global challenges of this day and age in conjunction.’
Harro van Asselt, University of Eastern Finland