ALL NEWS

Climate refugees cannot be sent back home, U.N. rules

Jan 20, 2020, 11:01 AM

New York, USA: United State Headquarters with the members flags erected on the poles. (Getty)...

New York, USA: United State Headquarters with the members flags erected on the poles. (Getty)

(Getty)

(CNN) — Climate refugees fleeing the effects of the crisis cannot be forced to return home by their adoptive countries, a United Nations panel has ruled, in a landmark decision that could open the door to a flood of legal claims by displaced people around the world.

The UN’s Human Rights Committee was making a judgment on the case of Ioane Teitiota, who applied for protection from New Zealand after claiming his life was at risk in his home country of Kiribati. The Pacific island is at risk of becoming the first country to disappear under rising sea levels.

The committee ruled against Teitiota on the basis that his life was not at imminent risk — but it also outlined that countries could violate people’s international rights if they force them back to countries where climate change poses an immediate threat.

“Without robust national and international efforts, the effects of climate change in receiving states may expose individuals to a violation of their rights,” its ruling said.

It’s unlikely the ruling will have an immediate impact on citizens of other countries, given that even Kiribati’s dire situation did not meet the threshold for Teitiota’s claim to succeed. But the decision could have a significant impact on future claims, as the number of people forced from their homes from the intensifying climate emergency grows.

Droughts, crop failure and rising seas are expected to force tens of millions to move to other areas in the coming years. A 2018 study by the World Bank found that 143 million people across South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America are at risk of becoming climate migrants.

In its ruling, the committee cited articles 6 and 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which ensure an individual’s inherent right to life.

“Given that 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 realized,” its decision added.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified Teitiota’s home nation of Kiribati as one of the six Pacific Island countries most threatened by rising sea levels. The report claims that, due to coastal erosion and freshwater contamination, Kiribati could become uninhabitable as early as 2050.

It has been among a group of Pacific nations sounding the alarm over climate change in recent years but has run up against resistance from nearby Australia.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

President Joe Biden speaks following the news of the assassination attempt on former president Dona...

Emma Keddington

‘It’s time to cool it down,’ says Biden in the wake of campaign rally shooting

President Biden affirmed that America must never go down a road of violence in an address to the American people.

8 hours ago

A smokejumper parachuting to help contain the Speirs wildfire, which started Saturday night....

Emma Keddington

Speirs wildfire burning near Flaming Gorge, caused by lightning

A lightning strike ignited the Speirs wildfire Saturday night. The fire is currently 0% contained, but hasn't caused evacuations.

10 hours ago

An apartment fire on Redwood Road in West Valley City displaced around 30 people Sunday afternoon....

Emma Keddington

Apartment fire displaces around 30 people in West Valley

The fire happened on Redwood Road in West Valley City. The fire affected eight units and displaced 30 people.

11 hours ago

President Joe Biden addressed the country on Sunday, July 14 about heightened security measures fol...

Kennedy Camarena

President Joe Biden speaks after Butler, Pennsylvania campaign rally shooting

President Biden addressed the nation Sunday at the White House, speaking about the shooting that occurred at Donald Trump's campaign rally.

12 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is covered by U.S. Secret Service a...

JULIE CARR SMYTH, JILL COLVIN, COLLEEN LONG, MICHAEL BALSAMO, ERIC TUCKER and MICHELLE L. PRICE Associated Press

Local officer encountered gunman just before he shot toward Trump at rally, sources tell AP

One local police officer climbed to the roof and encountered the shooter, who pointed his rifle at the officer, AP sources say.

13 hours ago

Audience members duck in the crowd during a shooting attempt at a campaign rally for Republican pre...

Kennedy Camarena

Name of man killed in Butler, Pennsylvania campaign rally released

The Pennsylvania governor has released the name of the man who was killed in the Butler, Pennsylvania campaign rally on Saturday.

15 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

A young woman smiles while reading the menu at a lakeside restaurant, enjoying the panoramic view o...

Bear Lake Convention & Visitors Bureau

The best restaurants to try in Bear Lake

Save this guide to the best restaurants in Bear Lake when you need to find a place to dine during your next visit.

Female leg stepping on weigh scales. Healthy lifestyle, food and sport concept....

Health Utah

Sustainable weight loss: the science-backed way to achieve it

Learn more about Debbie's weight loss journey with Health Utah, who have a unique weight loss philosophy for success.

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...

Comcast

Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

Climate refugees cannot be sent back home, U.N. rules