The UN's Human Rights Committee has rejected a Kiribati man's bid to return to New Zealand as a "climate refugee".
But in its decision released earlier this month, the committee ruled "climate change refugees" can now not be sent home.
Ioane Teitiota was deported in 2015 after the government refused his claim.
The Human Rights Committee decision says Teitota did not "objectively face" a risk of being persecuted if he returned to Kiribati, but added, "Given that the risk of an entire country becoming submerged underwater is such an extreme risk, the conditions of life with dignity before the risk is realised".
Amnesty International's Kate Schuetze says despite the Teitiota ruling, the Human Rights Committee did urge leaders to consider the threat of climate change.
"There was some discussion in that decision around the lack of sanitation and clean drinking water available in Kiribati," she told Newshub.
Schuetze said Pacific Island states do not need to be underwater before triggering human rights obligations.
The committee's decision added that without "robust" national and international efforts to combat climate change, it might expose people to a violation of human rights.
"The committee notes the author's [Teitota] assertion that he faces a risk to his right of life because of overpopulation and frequent and intense flooding and breaches of sea walls," the decision says.