Climate change, natural disasters and displacement: a multi-track approach to filling the protection gaps

Millions are displaced by climate-related disasters each year, and this trend is set to increase as climate change accelerates. It raises important questions about how well existing instruments actually protect people driven from their homes by climate change and natural disasters. This article first examines current protection instruments and points out gaps in them. There follows an exploration of various proposals for filling those protection gaps, with the focus on cross-border natural-disaster-induced displacement. A multi-track approach is recommended, including context-oriented and dynamic interpretation of existing law, and creation of new law. Adhering to the principle of non-refoulement, and focusing on whether return is possible, permissible, or reasonable, could be a realistic way to begin developing protection regimes for victims of natural-disaster-induced displacement.

About the authors

Vikram Kolmannskog

Vikram Kolmannskog holds degrees in law (LL.M. from the University of Oslo and LL.M. in human rights with distinction from the London School of Economics and Political Science) and the humanities (B.A. and Cand.mag. in history of ideas and Spanish from the University of Oslo). He was previously the Norwegian Refugee Council’s legal adviser on climate change and displacement and is currently an independent scholar and consultant.


Lisetta Trebbi holds a master’s degree in human geography from the University of Oslo, with specialization in development geography, and she worked for ten years in the field of humanitarian preparedness-and response operations. She is climate-change adviser to the Norwegian Refugee Council.