Rick Noack writes: New Zealand could become the world’s first country to essentially recognize climate change as an official reason to seek asylum, a government minister indicated in an interview on Tuesday. If implemented, up to 100 refugees per year could be admitted to the island nation on a newly created visa category, according to an initial campaign promise the proposal is based on.
This may appear relatively insignificant, given that the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center predicts 150 to 300 million people to be forced out of their homes due to climate change by 2050. Yet the announcement has still stunned environmental activists who have long demanded such resettlement programs, but have been blocked by governments and courts — including New Zealand’s own Supreme Court.
Although New Zealand’s approach does not bind other host countries, the experiment could be used as a role model, both in national courts and in the public debate. If implemented, the New Zealand proposal would likely be used by activists in European nations like Sweden or Germany to pressure their own governments into creating similar schemes. [Continue reading…]