How is your country hopeless

What can one object to such a judgment? A judge has the task of implementing what is in the law. In this case, it is about the UN Refugee Convention, and there you learn: people who are up to their necks in the South Pacific because the sea level is gradually getting dangerously close, because their land is being eroded and their groundwater is being salty by the sea, cannot be accepted as refugees. Why? Because so far no state has committed itself to this. The UN Refugee Convention is from 1951.

With this justification, a court in New Zealand has now sent a climate refugee home from the island republic of Kiribati. Laws through which industrialized countries recognize their shared responsibility for climate change have yet to be created.

The judgment is a reminder of the urgent need for such laws. 200 million people could lose their homes due to floods, droughts and rising sea levels by 2050, according to economists at the World Bank and Columbia University. The most pessimistic scenario from climate researchers currently looks like this: If the industrialized countries continue as before, the sea level will rise by one meter by the year 2100. Half of the state of Bangladesh, home to 150 million people, would then disappear underwater.

It is an old, difficult debate to what extent poverty in the world is also to blame for the industrialized countries and whether this results in an obligation to take in refugees. In the case of climate change, however, one cannot seriously avoid the insight: Yes, these people are leaving because the industrialized countries are destroying their homeland.

It would not do anyone any good if a single New Zealand judge had now stepped forward with acrobatics in international law, possibly while his colleagues shook the head; Incidentally, it would have taken a real legal stunt to interpret the current refugee convention as if the signatory states, which wanted to grant "protection from persecution" in 1951, also meant "persecution by water".

But climate change as a reason to flee: That could be written into there, in a renewed refugee convention. At the climate summit in Warsaw last week, the industrialized countries agreed for the first time to provide financial compensation to victims of climate damage. Although still without a legal claim. But the foot is in the door.

© Süddeutsche.de / mati / bavo