CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

Investigating Bilateral and Regional Agreements to Accommodate Climate-Induced Migration

Rachel Steinig, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Eileen Doherty-Sil

Date of this Version: 01 April 2021



Climate change has already begun causing displacement. This isn’t a new problem: since 2008, an average of 24 million people have been displaced each year by catastrophic weather disasters. There are currently 70.1 million forcibly displaced people worldwide - this is the highest level on record ever. However, climate migrants are not considered refugees under international law, according to the definition of a refugee adopted in the 1951 Convention on Refugees, and thus lack legal protections. In my thesis I investigated the role of bilateral and regional agreements to provide protection and asylum for climate refugees. My research question was: what are the conditions under which states agree to legally binding instruments to accommodate climate-induced migration? I hypothesized that states will attempt to minimize their commitments to accepting climate-displaced persons and emphasize that they are not establishing precedent for accepting climate-displaced persons in the future. I collected nine case studies of bilateral and regional agreements that have either a) been implemented and have provided protection for climate-displaced persons (positive cases), or b) been proposed but never implemented (negative cases). My hypothesis proved correct: when accepting climate-displaced people, except for in the case of New Zealand, governments were careful to emphasize the specific extraordinary circumstances that were present, avoid language surrounding climate change, and fail to acknowledge climate-displacement as a phenomenon, yet alone pledge to address it in the future by accepting displaced people.


International Relations | Political Science

Suggested Citation

Steinig, Rachel, "Investigating Bilateral and Regional Agreements to Accommodate Climate-Induced Migration" 01 April 2021. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 28 April 2021




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