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Increasing attention is given to the potential for environmental degradation and climate change to be instruments of population displacement. Those susceptible to displacement have been labelled “environmental refugees”. Whilst recognising the importance of protecting livelihoods, societies and human rights of people who might be displaced, the paper challenges this label. First the paper examines the derivation and origins of the label “environmental refugees”. Second the paper challenges the conceptual, normative and empirical basis for this terminology. The final section highlights the three “Rs” of “rights”, “resilience” and “resettlement” as a more proactive and comprehensive framework for responding to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation and the challenges of displacement.

More information


Journal article


Migration Institute of Finland

Publication Date





23 - 28


refugees, forced displacement, labelling, climate change, environmental degradation, rights, resilience, resettlement