In January of 2020, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that countries cannot deport refugees seeking asylum due to life-threatening conditions caused by climate change. The case involved Ioane Teitota, a native of the island nation of Kiribati, who unsuccessfully sought asylum in New Zealand due to rising sea levels in his home country. Although a majority of the U.N. Committee voted to deny Teitota’s claim, the ruling marks the first time that the Human Rights Committee has acknowledged the impacts of climate change on basic human rights. Here to explain the implications of the ruling is Sumudu Atapattu, Director of Research Centers at the UW Law School.
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