The United Nations plays a leadership role in protecting the environment as well as people dislocated from their homes; however such roles remain mutually exclusive. At present, there is no United Nations framework for human mobility because of environmental change, even if among other factors. This article conducts a historical analysis of policy documents produced by the United Nations and subsidiary agencies. Specifically, this article unpacks different textual descriptions of people displaced by environmental change in selected United Nations documents over the last 40 years. Based on an assessment of these documents, subject categories of people displaced by environmental change have been constructed in ways that have altered the terms of debate, evaded legal response, or deflected blame away from the perpetrators of environmental change. Historical textual analysis provides one way of explaining how there has been an absence of explicit international policy to protect those dislocated by environmental change.