Current Developments - Protecting People Displaced by the Impacts Of Climate Change: The UN Human Rights Committee and the Principle of Non-Refoulement

American Journal of International Law, 114(4), p. 708-725 (2020)

UNSW Law Research Paper No. 21-23

19 Pages Posted: 17 Feb 2021

See all articles by Jane McAdam

Jane McAdam

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - UNSW Law & Justice

Date Written: October 1, 2020

Abstract

For the past twenty years, domestic courts and tribunals have been called upon periodically to consider whether the state is precluded from deporting people to places where they face risks arising from the impacts of climate change. In the popular imagination, these cases have concerned so-called “climate refugees.” In legal terms, they have considered whether the principle of non-refoulement (nonremoval) under both refugee law and human rights law extends to those whose lives or living conditions would be severely impacted on account of the adverse effects of climate change or disasters.

To date, all the claims have failed for various reasons, among them that the harm feared did not amount to “persecution” under refugee law; there was no differential impact on the indi- vidual concerned; or the evidence did not yet substantiate the claim. But in late 2019, the United Nations Human Rights Committee accepted, in principle, that it is unlawful for states to send people to places where the impacts of climate change expose them to life-threatening risks or a risk of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

Keywords: displaced people, climate change, UN human rights committee, non-refoulement, refugee

Suggested Citation

McAdam, Jane, Current Developments - Protecting People Displaced by the Impacts Of Climate Change: The UN Human Rights Committee and the Principle of Non-Refoulement (October 1, 2020). American Journal of International Law, 114(4), p. 708-725 (2020), UNSW Law Research Paper No. 21-23, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3787187

Jane McAdam (Contact Author)

University of New South Wales (UNSW) - UNSW Law & Justice ( email )

Kensington, New South Wales 2052
Australia

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