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    Review of 'Addressing Environmental Migration in the European Union Discourse'

    Addressing Environmental Migration in the European Union DiscourseCrossref
    Review provided by Calum TM Nicholson
    Average rating:
        Rated 3 of 5.
    Level of importance:
        Rated 3 of 5.
    Level of validity:
        Rated 3 of 5.
    Level of completeness:
        Rated 3 of 5.
    Level of comprehensibility:
        Rated 3 of 5.
    Competing interests:

    Reviewed article

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    • Abstract: found
    • Article: found
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    Addressing Environmental Migration in the European Union Discourse

    For decades, the European Union (EU) has been addressing issues related to climate change and ecological degradation as a self-proclaimed pro-environmental and human rights-oriented actor. Correspondingly, the topic of environmentally driven migration entered the EU discourse at the dawn of the new millennium. As such, environmental migrants around the world find themselves in an existential crisis and are in need of support whether it comes to questions of compensations, relocation, protection of cultural heritage etc. Thus, considering the EU’s interest in the human rights and environmental/climate issue areas, I argue it is important to ask what the Union’s approach to this matter has been. Consequently, this article assesses the European Union discourse related to the topic of environmental migration over a twenty-year period. Through the theoretical lens of the Copenhagen School of Security Studies and the normative power EU conception, this paper critically analyzes the EU’s securitization of climate change in relation to environmental migrants who are experiencing an existential threat to their lives. Based on a qualitative discourse analysis, the preliminary results imply that the topic has been receding into the background of the EU agenda. In line, environmental migrants have been pushed aside by a multiplicity of other subjects threatened by climate change, and their problems were thus not reflected in either the EU climate change or migration management policies. Overall, the findings show a shift from an alarmist discourse to pragmatism on the EU’s behalf. Thereupon, this article questions the normative standard the EU sets for itself when it comes to the case of environmental migrant protection.

      Review information

      This work has been published open access under Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Conditions, terms of use and publishing policy can be found at www.scienceopen.com.

      Political science
      Discourse Analysis,European Union,Climate Change,Climate change,Normative Power,Politics of the environment,People and their environment,Securitization,Migration

      Review text

      This review has been provided by Calum TM Nicholson

      Major Comments 

      In the content of its analysis, the article is workmanlike and diligent, and in places quite interesting. However, one does get the sense that it is not helped by the way it engages with and opines on the ontological and normative questions around the topic of ‘enviromental/ climate migration’, both of which seem beyond the purview of the paper, which was to engage with the EU discourse on the topic. This expansive approach is absolutely not to the paper’s advantage, s it opens it up to a range of questions, and indeed, criticisms, deriving from the thorny nature of the topic's ontological and normative status.  


      I’ll give two examples of what I mean, but there are many throughout the paper. First, in the introduction, there is a presumption that ‘environmental migrants’ are a distinct, identifiable demographic. This ontological claim is unsupported, and anyway surely irrelevant to a critique of how the EU has talked about ‘climate’ or ‘environmental migrants’ in its discourse. Second, and on the second page, the author refers to ‘such migration’. What is ‘such migration’? It isn’t simply the case that the term ‘environmental migration’ has no legal definition. It also has no empirical one: anyone or no one could be an ‘EM’. 


      Engaging with the ontological status of ‘EMs’ or ‘CMs’ leads the author into a thicket of challenges for which there is little room - and no reason - to discuss in this paper. For instance, they write that ‘I identify the migrants as the main victims of environmental and climate change’. Can, however, they identity a single case of someone who has been meaningfully categorised as a ‘climate’ or ‘environmental’ migrant? Likely not. Therefore all that is achieved by engaging with the ontological question in this way is to open the paper up to criticisms that it is not intended to address. 


      My first major suggestion would therefore be to carefully go through the piece, and reframe it (or excise certain sentences) where necessary to make sure the paper is discussing the discourse on ‘EMs’/‘CMs’, but without loading the argument normatively (what ought to be done about ‘them’), nor even taking a position on whether ‘they’, ontologically, exist/ can be identified. Again, the real purpose - and strength - of the piece is in examining the way ‘EM’ has been discussed in EU discourse. Therefore, it is entirely irrelevant to the argument - and even a hindrance and a source of confusion - to talk about ‘their’ normative or ontological status. 


      My second major suggestion is that the author would do well to reference more recent literature. For instance, throughout Section 1, Environmental Migration as a Phenomenon’, the author refers to very old and out of date literature - Homer-Dixon (1991); the Stern Review (2006), the council of Europe (2008); Myers (1995); Christian Aid (2007). They ought perhaps to look at more recent literature, such as Boas et al. in Nature Climate Change (2019). 


      Minor Comments 

      Be careful with the use of English. In the conclusion, for instance, they write ‘there is still a long way forward when it comes…’. The more standard phrasing is ‘there is still a long way to go when it comes…’, although the meaning is nevertheless clear. 


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