A resolution asking for a top court to outline legal duties regarding climate change, an “unprecedented challenge of civilizational proportions,” is anticipated to be adopted by the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.
The resolution, which has been pushed for years by youth from Vanuatu and the Pacific islands, requests the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to outline nations’ responsibilities for preserving the planet’s climate as well as the legal ramifications of failing to do so.
Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau told AFP he will be “elated” if the resolution passes, which is anticipated given that more than half of UN member states have signed on as co-sponsors.
“Global warming is en route to Armageddon,” warned the leader, whose Pacific nation faces rising sea levels and experienced back-to-back cyclones earlier this month.
To handle the climate crisis, he continued, leaders must “react very quickly, urgently.”
Following a campaign begun by a group of students from a university in Fiji in 2019, the government of Vanuatu began advocating for climate resolution in 2021.
The resolution, which has the support of about 120 countries, requests clarification from the ICJ regarding the “obligations of States under international law to ensure the protection of the climate system.”
Global average temperatures could rise by 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by as early as 2030–2035, according to a warning issued by the UN’s council of climate experts (IPCC) a week ago, underscoring the urgency of taking immediate action in this decade.
Supporters of the new climate resolution hope that other documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, could offer some pathways for enforcement even though nations are not legally obligated under the Paris Agreement to meet emission reduction goals.
ICJ opinions are not binding, but they carry significant legal and moral weight and are often taken into account by national courts.
The future ruling “will serve as an important accountability tool,” Harjeet Singh of Climate Action Network, an international NGO, told AFP.
He hailed the resolution’s apparent success as “potentially one of the biggest climate diplomacy and multilateral successes in the recent past.”