UN ruling on climate refugees could be gamechanger for climate action

(Climate Change News, 29 Jan 2020) Comment: The latest UN ruling is a step towards improving the lives of those most vulnerable and affected by climate change.

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The recent ruling by the United Nations that governments cannot return people to countries where their lives might be threatened by climate change is a potential gamechanger — not just for climate refugees, but also for global climate action.

The UN Human Rights Committee’s landmark ruling made clear that “without robust national and international efforts, the effects of climate change in receiving states may expose individuals to violations of their rights … thereby triggering the non-refoulement obligations of sending states.”

The ruling elaborates further to say:

“Given the risk of an entire country becoming submerged under water is such an extreme risk, the conditions of life in such a country may become incompatible with the right to life with dignity before the risk is realised.”

The judgment relates to the case of Ioane Teitiota, a man from the Pacific island of Kiribati.

In 2015, Teitiota applied for protection from New Zealand after arguing his life and his family members’ lives were at risk due to the effects of climate change and sea level rise.

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Climate Change News, 29 Jan 2020: UN ruling on climate refugees could be gamechanger for climate action