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Where To From Here? The Potential for Climate Change-Related Migration: What is the State of the International Approach to the Potential Problem of Climate Change-Related Migration, and what Contribution does Hodgkinson, Anderson, Burton and Young's Proposed Climate Change Displaced Persons Convention Make to the International Approach?

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posted on 2021-11-12, 13:52 authored by Cawthorn, Anne

Climate change may be a relatively new phenomenon, but its effects are being felt throughout the world and having a significant impact on peoples’ lives in many countries. Some of those most keenly feeling the effects live in areas that are particularly vulnerable to destabilizing factors acting in conjunction with existing challenges. The effects of climate change are an exacerbating factor in sometimes already difficult lives. In some areas, the effects of climate change are or may become such that the inhabitants contemplate migration to find a more viable life elsewhere, either in their own country or in another country. It is by no means guaranteed that the effects of climate change will inexorably lead people, such as those in low-lying small island states, to migrate outside their country, particularly if there are adequate measures taken to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the potential for climate change-related migration is drawing near, if it has not already arrived, as a factor for some people’s decisions to migrate internally or externally. Some work currently underway considers approaches to dealing with climate change-related migration and the possible related issues around human rights protections and practical management. Climate change is an amorphous, complex and politically challenging issue for governments and stakeholders to deal with. Its effects on peoples’ lives can be significant, especially in conjunction with existing development, environmental, and economic challenges. It is important to ensure that any approach created is necessary, in light of existing mechanisms and available resources, and that it does not disadvantage any other groups of people through its creation or functioning. This thesis considers the state of the international approach to the potential problem of climate change-related migration. One recently developed approach was a proposed Climate Change Displaced Persons Convention, which has been formulated by Hodgkinson, Burton, Anderson and Young (2010). A range of information was considered to try and find a balance between the attempt to deal with climate change as a public and foreign policy issue and the human reactions and subsequent choices people make in dealing with the effects of climate change. Due to the complications of holding a position as a public servant working in the field of responses to climate change, I decided to use a methodology that would enable me to remain a step removed from the process, to avoid influencing responses. The thesis reviews current literature and experiences on climate change and migration, particularly in the Pacific, identifies key issues, and assesses the potential effectiveness of the Convention in addressing the issues identified. Information sources included drawing on reports of first hand experience of climate change related migration and those living in the front line on the islands, experiences of working in the public and NGO sectors, and academic considerations of how to address climate change and migration.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

International Relations

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of International Relations

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


McMillan, Kate