Working paper

Climate Change and Human Mobility in the Pacific Region: Plans, Policies and Lessons Learned


Elisa Fornale and Sophia Kagan


Although a clearer picture is emerging of the diverse factors that link environmental drivers and human mobility, few studies so far have looked at the potential to harness existing migratory instruments within the settings affected by climate change. This paper explores how labor mobility mechanisms can either increase or compromise the adaptive capacity of environmentally vulnerable populations. To this end the analysis explores the emerging links between labor migration strategies and environmental changes in the Pacific. Diverse tools adopted at the bilateral level (for example, New Zealand’s Recognized Seasonal Employer scheme), or regional level (for example, temporary movement of natural persons [TMNP]) are evaluated as vehicles of the “migration-as-adaptation” narrative. This paper considers how the persisting challenges in using existing or emerging forms of labor mobility to address the effects of environmental crises can result in tools with only a limited ability to absorb the human rights implications for those who are marginalized. Acknowledging the limits of the current labor mobility framework for securing climate justice, the analysis invites readers to reconsider who has the task of framing normative responses to global environmental change.