Tuvalu Climate Change Refugees Granted World-First Residency

A Tuvalu family has been granted residency in New Zealand after claiming to be climate change refugees, saying they would be affected by climate change if they were forced to return home.

The family, believed to be the first successful applicant for residency on humanitarian grounds where climate change is one factor, waited for two years for the decision.

The unusual situation will not open the floodgates to such applications, but offers a peep into what the future may hold, experts say.

“The ruling isn’t precedent setting,” said David Estrin, a senior environmental lawyer with Gowlings, a large Canadian law firm.

But it is the tip of the iceberg.

“Many people from small countries that are going to be potentially flooded will claim refugee status and their claim will be based on the fact that they have nowhere to live and nothing to do with the fact whether or not they have relatives in that country.”

Currently, international law does not deal with climate change refugees “but it should and it will have to,” Estrin said.

Tuvalu is a tiny, remote island in the Pacific between Hawaii and Australia with a population of less than 11,000. The average elevation in Tuvalu is about two metres above sea level and is considered to be among the places that could sink if sea levels continue to rise.

Original article by Raveena Aulakh, Toronto Star, August 6, 2014.

Photo by Stephanie Rabemiafara/Art in All of Us/Corbis.

Tags: climate change refugees  David Estrin  Gowlings  Toronto Star  Tuvalu  

New Zealand Passes Zero Carbon Law

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