Vanuatu and a group of global coalition States at an “International Court of Justice Champions” meeting in New York City on Monday, September 26, 2022, called for a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) for the International Court of Justice to deliver an Advisory Opinion on the obligations of states under international law to protect the rights of present and future generations against the adverse effects of climate change.
“We believe we can leave no stone unturned and must use all available tools in our collective toolbox, including the tools of international law to motivate climate ambition,” Vanuatu’s president, Nikenike Vurobaravu, said.
The high-level week of the77th session of the UNGA has been described as an important event in Vanuatu’s diplomatic push for global support for the initiative to boost the lagging ambition of the Paris Agreement.
“We met today to put human rights at the centre of climate decisions. Our actions will respond in particular to our young people’s calls for action, because they know the future of life on this planet is not negotiable,” the president said.
International Court of Justice advisory opinions provide legal clarification on critical global issues and have recently addressed sensitive issues such as de-nucelarisation, colonialism and self-determination.
“The UN’s International Court of Justice is the only principal organ of the UN system that has not yet been given an opportunity to help address the climate crisis,” President Vurobaravu said.
“Climate change is an existential threat to the most vulnerable. The need to take urgent action to combat climate change has been acknowledged by almost every organ of the United Nations. But a major gap remains. The International Court of Justice.”
The ICJ Champion nations assembled on Monday hailed from the Pacific, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and are actioning leaders’ endorsements from Caribbean (CARICOM), the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) and the Pacific Islands Forum.
The ICJ Champion countries have committed to utilise their diplomatic and political networks to support the request for a vote in the UN General Assembly.
“This is not a court case, we are not blaming or targeting any particular nation,” President Vurobaravu said.
“There will be no winners or losers. The Advisory Opinion will simply clarify in the human rights, environmental, oceans and climate change conventions we have all already ratified.”
“This ICJ pathway is of benefit to us all, whether in the global north or the global south, whether in the highest emitting nations or the lowest.
“Our people, our environments, our youth simply cannot wait. The world will be watching us as we demonstrate our climate leadership and vote for this Resolution,” he said.
President Vurobaravu said the ICJ Champions at the meeting called for all nations at the United Nations General Assembly to address the greatest challenge of our time.
“We aim to strengthen national ambition to fully realise the goals of the Paris Agreement, and we aim to protect human rights and our environment,” he said.
President Vurobaravu told the meeting the world is amid a crisis, a devastating climate emergency which is being measured in degrees Celsius and in human lives.
“How is it possible, that after 30 years of climate change negotiations, global greenhouse gas emissions are skyrocketing? How is it possible that we have still not made the rapid transition from fossil fuels to renewables?”
“The time for slow and steady action has passed,” he said.
The ICJ Champion Countries expect that the UNGA vote on the ICJ Resolution will occur after COP27 in late 2022 or early 2023.