This Climate Migration panel took place on September 23, 2020 at 11 a.m. EST. Watch the replay of this informative session below at your convenience.

About the panel

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an average of 22.5 million people were displaced by climate or weather-related events between 2000-2018. And the numbers keep rising. The International Organization for Migration estimates that by 2050 there will be 200 million climate-displaced persons (also known as “climate refugees”). Despite the eminent threat posed by climate change, however, climate refugees are not a protected class.

We believe the refugee resettlement and environmental communities must come together to address the challenges that exist in assisting climate-displaced people and propose next steps for advancing legal frameworks, public campaigns, and policy decisions. As one of the oldest and largest resettlement agencies in the U.S., Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) has convened a panel of experts to explore the unique intersection of climate change and forced migration. This virtual event, was held in partnership with Climate Week NYC and Climate Group.

Meet the Panelists

Walter Kaelin

Walter Kaelin is professor emeritus for international and (Swiss) constitutional law, University of Bern/Switzerland. He is the Envoy of the Chair of the Platform on Disaster Displacement and the former Envoy of the Chairmanship of the Nansen Initiative on disaster-induced cross-border displacement. He presently supports the UN High Level Panel on Internal Displacement as a member of its Expert Advisory Group. Previously, he served as Representative of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons as well as a member of the UN Human Rights Committee.

Faye Matthews

Faye Matthews J.D. is the Legal Policy Advisor for the National Wildlife Federation’s Mississippi River Delta Restoration Program and Gulf Restoration Program. As Legal Policy Advisor, Faye provides day-to-day advice and solutions to challenges faced by various ecosystems of the diverse and rich Gulf region and by communities that have been impacted by some of the Nation’s worst natural disasters. Faye works with stakeholders, including policy makers, community leaders and commercial fishermen, to develop innovative climate policy to support resilience in our rapidly changing environment. Previously, Faye worked on Capitol Hill as Legislative Counsel on the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington State and former Senator Mary Landrieu from Louisiana where she handled the Bureau of Land Management and oil and gas portfolios and supported on natural resources policy, including water, forestry and national park issues as well as energy efficiency initiatives for sustainability and resiliency. Faye worked Of Counsel at Waltzer, Wiygul and Garside Law Firm in Gretna, LA specializing in environmental law. Faye is a New Orleans native and holds a Juris Doctorate from Southern University Law Center and a B.S. in Psychology from the University of New Orleans.

David Gardiner

David Gardiner is president of David Gardiner and Associates, which focuses on climate change and clean energy issues and advises non-profit and for-profit organizations. He serves as Executive Director of the Combined Heat and Power Alliance. His firm coordinates Americans for a Clean Energy Grid and the Renewable Thermal Collaborative and helps eliminate barriers that prevent corporate consumers from buying renewable and other forms of clean energy. Prior to founding his firm, he served in the Clinton Administration as Executive Director of the White House Climate Change Task Force and as Assistant Administrator for Policy at the Environmental Protection Agency. Prior to joining EPA, Mr. Gardiner was the Sierra Club’s Legislative Director in Washington, DC. He has a Bachelor of Arts with honors from Harvard College.

Collin O'Mara

Collin O’Mara serves as President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, America’s largest wildlife conservation organization with 52 state and territorial affiliates and nearly six million hunters, anglers, birders, gardeners, hikers, paddlers, and wildlife enthusiasts. Prior to the National Wildlife Federation, O’Mara led the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control as Cabinet Secretary from 2009 through 2014. His previous board service includes a term as Co-Chair of the Natural Resources and Agriculture Subcommittee of the President’s Task Force on Climate Adaptation and Preparedness, Chair of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, Chair of the Ozone Transport Commission, Chair of the Climate and Energy Subcommittee of the Environmental Council of the States, and the Executive Council of the Chesapeake Bay Program.
Krish O'Mara Vignarajah

Krish O'Mara Vignarajah

Krish O’Mara Vignarajah is the President and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service – Krish previously served in the Obama White House and at the State Department as Senior Advisor under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry. At the White House, Krish served as Policy Director for Michelle Obama and led the First Lady’s signature Let Girls Learn initiative. At the State Department, she coordinated development and implementation of multiple programs including those concerning refugees and migration, engagement with religious communities, the legal dimensions of U.S. foreign policy, and regional issues relating to Africa and the Middle East. She worked closely with PRM, Consular Affairs, Health & Human Services and the Department of Defense.
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