A man has claimed asylum in New Zealand saying it is unsafe for him to go home because of climate change.
Ioane Teitiota, 37, said rising seas meant there was no land on the Pacific island of Kiribati that he could safely live on.
He asked New Zealand’s High Court in Auckland to let him appeal a decision that refused him asylum on the grounds his claim fell short of the legal criteria, such as fear of prosecution or threats to his life.
The court will review the evidence and make a decision in the coming weeks.
Teitiota came to New Zealand in 2007 – and has three children born there – but his work visa has now expired.
His lawyer said: “The refugee convention which came into effect at the end of the Second World War needs to be changed, to incorporate people who are fleeing climate catastrophe, and what’s happening to Kiribati in the next 30 years is a catastrophe.”
New Zealand’s Immigration and Protection Tribunal said earlier this year in a report: “The sad reality is that the environmental degradation caused by both slow and sudden-onset natural disasters is one which is faced by the Kiribati population generally.”
Jane McAdam, an expert on refugee law at Sydney’s University of New South Wales, said there was “not the political will” to extend legislation to include climate change impacts.