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New Zealand judge rejects refugee status based on climate change

A New Zealand High Court [official website] judge on Tuesday held that two Kiribati citizens, could not be granted refugee status [decision, PDF] based on the effects of climate change on Kiribati. Ioane Teitiota and his wife moved to New Zealand from the island nation of Kiribati in 2007 and had three children born in New Zealand. As New Zealand does not grant citizenship based upon birth in the country, the entire family faces deportation because the couple has overstayed their visas. Teitiota's claims were rejected twice by New Zealand immigration authorities [official website], so he appealed to the New Zealand High Court, arguing that rising sea levels from climate change could raise the oceans by one meter and sink Kiribati. Judge John Priestley held that Teitiota did not fit the definition of a refugee because Teitiota was not being directly persecuted but instead faced an indirect threat. The judge said if he broadened the definition of refugee, millions more people worldwide would be eligible for refugee status.

Climate change [JURIST news archive], including greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, is a controversial topic. JURIST Guest Columnists Joseph Otis Minott and Jay Duffy argue that the much-advocated transition from coal to natural gas, particularly that obtained through hydraulic fracturing [JURIST backgrounder], may not deliver promised climate benefits, and Guest Columnist Hua Wang argues the need for policies [JURIST op-eds] that combine market incentives with outright prohibitions to achieve enforcement and compliance with international environmental regimes. In June 2012, Mexican President Felipe Calderon signed [JURIST report] a climate change bill introducing sweeping environmental reform, choosing to implement their own law rather then relying on international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol [text; JURIST news archive]. In December 2011, Canada withdrew [JURIST report] from the Kyoto Protocol. Earlier in December 194 countries agreed to extend [JURIST report] the Kyoto Protocol until 2017 after they failed to institute a new internationally-binding climate change treaty in 2009. In November 2011 Australia passed a law that imposes a price [JURIST report] on carbon emissions in an effort to improve the environment and the country's economy. In 2007 the UK introduced [JURIST report] its own climate change legislation, pledging to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent by 2050. The Kyoto Protocol was adopted [JURIST report] in 2005.

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