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As extreme weather events and environmental disasters surge around the globe, the role of the climate crisis in driving forced migration is starting to receive growing policy attention.  

In the coming decades, experts project that climate change will drive unprecedented levels of migration, underscoring the need for urgent, proactive solutions. Yet, climate change is currently not considered a legal basis for refugee protection in the United States.  

Legislation recently reintroduced by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (NY-7) and Sen. Ed Markey (MA) would fill this critical deficit in U.S. migration and climate policy. The Climate Displaced Persons Act (CDPA) moves the needle forward in recognizing the worth of every person and ensuring just migration policies.  

Now, the responsibility lies with Congress to advance this pivotal legislation and demonstrate a commitment to a comprehensive, compassionate approach to the growing global crisis of climate-induced displacement.  

A Humanitarian Pathway for Climate Displacement

The CDPA (H.R.6455 / S.3340) builds on proposals in a first-of-its-kind 2021 White House report on the links between the climate crisis and migration. The report calls for new protections for people displaced by climate change and emphasizes that migration will become a necessary mechanism for survival for many as the impacts of climate change become more severe.  

The legislation would codify the definition of a “climate-displaced person” as someone who is forced to leave their home due to a climate-related disaster. This includes instances where environmental disasters converge with other challenges like food scarcity, discrimination, persecution, or human rights violations.  

The CDPA would amend existing U.S. law (P.L. 89-236) to create a visa program specifically for climate-displaced persons. This initiative sets a minimum floor of 100,000 visas annually, reflecting a commitment to creating a safe and orderly humanitarian pathway for vulnerable populations affected by climate change.  

Global Climate Resilience Strategy

The CDPA also creates a 10-year Global Climate Change Resilience Strategy to address the impacts of climate displacements and humanitarian emergencies. Crucially, this strategy brings together the State Department, USAID, and the special presidential envoy for climate. By ensuring alignment of actions across the federal government, the strategy aims to maximize the impact of U.S. programs and funding. 

The CDPA establishes the role of coordinator of climate change resilience within the State Department. By designating responsibility for implementation to a senior official, the CDPA takes a significant step toward advancing a coordinated response to the pressing challenges posed by climate-induced displacement. 

Tackling the Climate-Conflict-Migration Nexus 

In large part due to advocacy by FCNL and our partners, this legislation would provide a crucial step towards bridging the interconnected impacts of climate change, migration, and violent conflict.  

Climate-driven resource scarcity and increased displacement have exacerbated violence and regional tensions globally. In turn, violent conflict expedites environmental degradation and forced migration, creating a dangerous feedback loop.  

Rather than treating these challenges as separate issues, the U.S. needs comprehensive solutions like the CDPA to address the intersecting and compounding impacts of climate change, migration, and violent conflict. 

The CDPA takes an important step to this end by requiring the Global Climate Change Resilience Strategy to promote peaceful cooperation to address climate change and support climate-resilient programs that promotes peacebuilding to avert conflict. 

Congress Must Act

By recognizing the role of climate change in migration, the U.S. will be better able to put into place more effective programs that work holistically to address the roots of these cascading challenges.   

This is not just a strategic issue, but a moral imperative. As one of the largest contributors to the climate crisis, the U.S. has a moral responsibility to support those who are most impacted by its consequences. 

The Quaker Statement on Migration asks Quakers to commit to protecting the dignity of every human being, regardless of migration status or citizenship. The Climate Displaced Persons Act would be a valuable step forward towards upholding this prophetic commitment.  

Lauren Evans

Lauren Evans

Program Assistant for Peacebuilding (2023-2024)

Lauren Evans is FCNL’s 2023-2024 program assistant for Peacebuilding, assisting the team in advocating for sustainable and nonviolent U.S. foreign policy.

Carla Montilla

Carla Montilla

Program Assistant for Sustainable Energy and the Environment (2023-2024)

Carla Montilla is the program assistant for sustainable energy and environment for 2023-2024.