Topic 1: Environmental RefugeesCountry: New ZealandCommittee: United Nations Environment Programme Over the past 100 years, many international protocols and conventions have been established for the protection and treatment of refugees. These global agreements are designed to help refugees find asylum from the dangers they escaped from, ensure that their basic human rights are respected during the relocation process, and to assist in finding long term solutions. However, there are no protections or obligations designated towards environmental or climate change refugees. The gaps in these protocols have started to draw attention from the global stage. Under article 1A of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is described as anyone who is currently outside of their country of nationality due to the danger of persecution for his or her “race, nationality, religion, political opinion, or participation in a certain social group”. One of the main challenges that this group of people are facing is the lack of an agreed upon universal definition as to what an environmental refugee is, or how they differ from migrants. Differentiating between those affected by natural disasters or natural environmental cycles and those affected by climate change make coming up with a universal definition a difficult task. Yet, this is only one of the many challenges that stand in the way of a defining an environmental refugee. The climate change events that are drastic enough to warrant immunities in a new dominion would have to be considered, as well as determining what kind of protections are granted to refugees that would not overlap with those already in place in existing international mechanisms, such as the Refugee Convention. There is much controversy surrounding this topic, that has only grown in recent years. In 2014, a small, but pivotal milestone took place for the awareness of environmental refugees as well as the first steps in acknowledging the precedence of this issue. Claiming “exceptional humanitarian grounds”, a refugee family from Tuvalu was granted legal residence in New Zealand by the New Zealand Immigration and Protection Tribunal, with environmental changes threatening the well being of their children being one of the factors for their relocation. The family had been living in the country since 2007, but did not have legal status until 2009. The Immigration and Protection Tribunal took into consideration various factors to decide if the family was eligible for residency, including several generations of relatives already living in the country, both of the children being born there, and the employment status of the father. Ultimately, climate change was not a driving factor in the families’ appeal, but the case still pioneered the consideration of climate change being a valid push factor for immigrants coming to New Zealand.Only a year later in 2015, a similar case was filed, with the applicant once again seeking refugee status for him and his family in New Zealand. Ioane Teitiota and his wife had moved from Kiribati in 2007, and continued to live there despite the expiration of their visas in 2010. To avoid the deportation of his family, Teitiota applied for refugee status under the Immigration Act of 2009, “on the basis of changes to his environment in Kiribati caused by sea-level-rise associated with climate change”. The Immigration and Protection Tribunal denied his claims, with reasons that his application did not fall within the Refugee Convention, and how the environmental state of Kiribati at the time did not put himself or his family in immediate danger. Another factor that determined the outcome of the case was mentioned by the Supreme Court, discussing how the inability of the Kiribati government to protect its citizens from the country’s deteriorating environmental state was never proven. The foremost differentiating factor between the two cases is the reliance of climate change as the primary basis for the appeal. The immigration process and evaluation framework at that time did not consider climate change or environmental issues as a valid or significant consideration in the determination of any immigration appeals. The varying outcomes of these two cases sparked the discussion of the status of environmental refugees in New Zealand. The absence of a harmonized legal system to deal with such complex circumstances inspired climate change minister and frontman of the New Zealand Green party, James Shaw to propose the implementation of a specialized humanitarian visa, strictly available to those people that are displaced or face serious impacts from the rising sea levels around the south-pacific region, as a result of climate change. This experimental visa category, if enacted in the upcoming year, is predicted to drastically increase the nation’s current refugee quota, which currently only amounts to 750 people. It was proposed that the visa would grant up to 100 individuals acceptance into the country with legal refugee status and subsequently allow them the opportunity to partake in the New Zealand Refugee Quota Programme. The programme focuses on helping refugees become self sufficient as well as assisting in bettering their social skills and community awareness, making it easier to start their new lives, and most efficiently assimilate into the country. It also helps new citizens settle in one of 6 designated regions within New Zealand; Auckland, Waikato, Manawatu, Wellington, Nelson, and Dunedin. This is the first time any federal government has recognized the gap between the increasingly harmful effects of climate change and the lack of legal structure required to handle it, and proposed a solution. The implementation of this visa also encourages environmental activists from around the world to persuade their own governments into similar innovative action.In response to the serious threat of rising sea levels, Kiribati started Migration with Dignity, a program that supports the education and training required for highly skilled positions that are currently at a deficit in New Zealand. The mechanism operates under the premise that large scale corporations found within the country are more influential towards immigration and visa regulations than the governments of small or third world countries, such as Kiribati itself. Having a lack of skilled workers available strongly motivates companies to put pressure on the immigration sector to ease visa restrictions. If other small nations around the south-pacific region that also face serious environmental and economic effects of climate change were to consider similar programs, the combined efforts could put great stress on the introduction of a climate change visa to New Zealand, and also inspire similar actions from other countries. The multinational presence could intensify the urgency of the matter on congress to shorten the validation process of the visa and help ensure that it is viable for a wide margin of individuals. The immigration processes around the world do not currently consider environmental factors in determining refugee status. Some countries such as Kiribati, have found ways to work around these immigration systems, such as the Migration with Dignity program, but this is a minor, short term solution to the challenge of legally relocating the people that face the detrimental impacts of global warming. The proposal to create specialized environmental visas has awakened the global awareness and acceptance of climate change refugees. The visa should ideally be structured around a universal definition of climate change refugees, but with specific circumstances that only grant asylum to the people that are most affected by the extreme impacts of rising sea levels.Topic 2: Global Carbon CapCountry: New ZealandCommittee: United Nations Environment Programme The Labour Government of New Zealand enacted the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading) Amendment Act 2008 to introduce the nation’s first carbon cap and trade system. In passing this, they were acting under the Kyoto Protocol, from obligations with the UNFCCC. The New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS) covers all economic sectors except agriculture due to the lack of similar frameworks in the international community. However, including this sector would be beneficial to all nations in the long term, if only under a globally harmonized system, as it is a significant contributor to global emissions. There has been much speculation about the effectiveness of the NZ ETS, and the exclusion of the agricultural sector has been a part of that debate. With some improvements, the emissions trading scheme could act as a good model for other less developed nations as one method to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. The cap and trade system can be very effective in discouraging the use of carbon dioxide and other major pollutants, if implemented effectively and closely monitored. The NZ ETS requires its participants to pay for each metric tonne of carbon dioxide emitted as an incentive to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions. In this market, either an international ‘Kyoto” Unit or the New Zealand Unit (NZU) can be used for trading. The cap price of a NZU is NZ$25, with its current value at about $21 (one of which must be surrendered for every two tonnes of carbon dioxide gas emitted). However, there is much debate that the price per unit is too low. NZU’s must be handed into the government annually to assist the country in fulfilling their international obligations. The holdings of NZU are monitored by the New Zealand Emissions Unit Registry, a system that also helps determine, based on supply and demand, the appropriate up-to-date value of an NZU. The acquiring of NZU’s varies depending on special circumstance set up by the government. It is not solely restricted to the purchasing or trading of the units. Free units are allocated to the commercial fishing industry, certain exporters with goods that have a high international price, as well as landowners that hold forests from before 1990. So, in general, certain sectors are rewarded for reducing or having the fewest greenhouse gas emissions. The NZ ETS legally includes most economic sectors including forestry, waste, and industrial processes. The only sector granted temporary exemption from the NZ ETS is agriculture, despite contributing almost half of the country’s emissions, mainly producing methane and nitrous oxide. Currently the only responsibilities of parties within the agricultural industries are to monitor their emissions and report the data to the government. However, the previous Minister of Climate Change did state that the ability to accurately record information was poor due to the limited technologies available, which can explain the industry’s absence from the NZ ETS altogether. The delay in joining the scheme is also due to the unfair international competition that local farms would have to face against other countries who did not have similar legally binding systems. The additional costs that farmers and operators would now have to pay would put them at a serious disadvantage, as goods would be more expensive to buy locally, than those that were imported. It is recommended that New Zealand work with other members of the international community to encourage the inclusion of the agricultural sector in all countries cap and trade systems, so that the country can include its own agricultural industries to ensure a level competitive playing field.New Zealand’s trading scheme has faced much criticism for its effectiveness in the overall control and reduction of greenhouse gases, in addition to the exclusion of tis agricultural industries. Despite having such a seemingly beneficial system to regulate the carbon dioxide emissions and incentivise innovations in green technology, the NZ ETS is being challenged after statistics were publicly released stating that the nations gross emissions had in fact increased by approximately 24% since 1990, one of the largest increases among developed countries. The price of foreign carbon credits is believed to be one of the factors that substantially undermined the efficiency of the system. When cheap international credits or units are available from places like Ukraine or Russia, the price that polluters are required to pay becomes significantly less. Finding a way to escape high carbon costs by bringing international credits into the country goes entirely against the sole purpose of the NZ ETS, to discourage and phase out the reliance on fossil fuels or greenhouse gases by incurring penalties for their use. The price of a NZU itself is another factor affecting the success of the NZ ETS. When it was enacted, the cap price for NZU’s was set at NZ$25, a value that has not changed in the 10 years the scheme has been in effect. Since 2010, the price has varied between NZ$3 and NZ$21. With such a low cost, the scheme is not as successful as it could be to motivate the market. Lastly, another fault with the system is its ability to unfairly manipulate the cost of fuel and electricity. When the system was initiated, energy and fuel companies raised their prices to compensate for the cost of the ETS. However, over the past decade, as the NZU has risen and fallen, fuel and electricity prices have not fluctuated the same way. In fact, they have stayed relatively high, even when the NZU price was around NZ$2. In order to make long term emission goals realistic, the NZ ETS should be revised to not only improve the efficiency of the system, but also to help New Zealand achieve its primary recognized climate change goal of eventually transitioning to a completely sustainable society.For any able country that is not already doing so, the introduction of a regional cap and trade system can be beneficial not only in reducing greenhouse gas emissions on a short-term basis, but also in achieving the long term zero carbon goals arranged and agreed to in the Kyoto Protocol. Following New Zealand’s framework, it is recommended that in the creation of similar carbon trading schemes, the money collected from the purchase of NZU’s be put towards the advancement and innovation of green and/or zero emission technologies that are easily accessible for all. In doing so, nations can be given the additional opportunity and resources to prepare for the transition to a green future, ideally built from clean, sustainable technologies. From analysing the effectiveness of the New Zealand Emissions Trading System, it is encouraged that in the implementation of similar programs, the highlighted shortcomings of the scheme be thoroughly looked at and considered in the hopes that other nations create their most successful and efficient cap and trade systems.