Simona Capisani | Governing Climate Migration: A Right to a Livable Space in the Paris Agreement

This is an Archive of a Past Event

Climate-driven migration figures prominently in scholarly discussions debating how climate change might threaten the international order. Whereas the mechanism typically considered involves increased conflict between states, we suggest a distinct channel. For the international order to maintain claims to legitimacy, we show that a condition has emerged under climate change: one to protect the right to a livable space. Climate-related migration constitutes a set of circumstances in which this right becomes at risk of violation. In this context, the normative framing of livability offers two benefits. First, the livability framework reconciles the current institutional setup on climate migration with the empirical evidence. Whereas the former is primarily focused on involuntary movement across national borders, the latter documents a range of migratory responses to climate instability, from movement to immobility. By addressing such heterogeneity of outcomes, the right to a livable space overcomes limitations of prevalent normative approaches on climate mobility. Second, the livability framework helps evaluate and improve governance schemes relevant for climate mobility. Among these, we identify the climate regime under the Paris Agreement (PA) as best suited for protecting the right to a livable space. We show, however, that a revision of the PA’s treatment of climate mobility is required to implement this right. We suggest two pathways to that end, which highlight contrasted understandings of how the PA’s two pillars of Loss & Damage and Adaptation ought to be articulated. Overall, the right to livability provides a normative foundation for a change in institutional setup of climate mobility, a defining issue for the future of the international order.


About the Speaker

Simona Capisani is currently Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Durham University in the UK. Prior to Durham, she was a Research Associate at the Climate Futures Initiative in Science, Values, and Policy at Princeton University, administered by the High Meadows Environmental Institute and the University Center for Human Values.  She is also an Associate of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University where she was a Research Fellow in the Mahindra Humanities Center and part of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation research cohort on Migration and the Humanities.

Her areas of research and teaching specialty are in Political Philosophy and Ethics (Normative and Applied) with a focus on issues that intersect matters of climate justice, international and local governance, philosophy of immigration, gender, and global and social justice. Her current work addresses the moral, political, and governance challenges of  “climate mobilities” which refers to voluntary and forced immobility and migration including in-situ adaptation, external and internal displacement, refugee flows, managed retreat, and planned relocation that are influenced by climate variability.

Professor Capisani currently serves as the Secretary Officer for the International Society for Environmental Ethics (ISEE) and she is a member of the Steering Committee for Philosophers for Sustainability. Additionally, along with Prof. Annie Stilz (Princeton University), she is the co-director of the interdisciplinary Climate Mobilities Working Group supported by the Center for Human Values (UCHV) at Princeton University. She also serves as the Faculty Lead for Arts and Humanities in Durham University's Centre for Sustainable Development Law & Policy.  

This Workshop is sponsored by the Stanford Humanities Center and made possible by support from an anonymous donor, former Fellows, the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society.