HIC SVNT LEONES (Here are lions)

The 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol remain the main legal instruments for defining refugees, their rights and the legal obligation of states. Persons displaced by climate change are not protected. There is both a policy and operational protection gap for environmental refugees. Yet the distinctions between conflicts and environmental violence are complicated. In terms of loss of land to the sea, the earth is itself a direct cause of forced displacement. Historically laws of war and the sea have been developed to facilitate antagonistic struggles, trade, and colonial expansions by European nation states. While north-south asymmetries continue to be illustrated by the militarization of borders, ‘unintended consequences’ of climate change are a potential instrument of violence. The phrase ‘unintended consequences’ must be questioned as it can render matters of environmental concern apolitical while short-circuiting their legal possibilities. This brings into tension the linear line of causality of conflict with more complex and diffused causalities of environmental violence. The question is whether existing normative frameworks to protect displaced persons found in Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law are enough? Or do entirely new laws need to be imagined in the Anthropocene? As territories shift, how do they redefine legal and political definitions and boundaries?