UN passes landmark resolution for climate justice
The United Nations (UN) passed a landmark resolution on Wednesday that urges the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to outline nations' legal obligations related to curbing climate change disasters and their impacts on vulnerable communities.
The resolution — which was co-sponsored by some 132 countries — was adopted by consensus.
Vanuatu Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau called it "a win for climate justice of epic proportions."
Who proposed the resolution?
The government of Vanuatu started lobbying for the measure in 2021, after a campaign initiated by a group of students from a Fiji university in 2019.
Vanuatu, a small archipelago of about 319,000 people, is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. Its future is threatened by rising sea levels. The island nation has faced a string of recent disasters including back-to-back Category 4 cyclones, leaving thousands of citizens homeless.
Cynthia Houniuhi, leader of the Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change group, hailed the adoption of the resolution.
"This was an opportunity to do something bigger than ourselves, bigger than our fears, something important for our future," she said.
What does it mean for climate action?
The resolution calls on the ICJ to lay out nations' obligations for protecting Earth's climate, and the legal consequences they face if they don't.
The court's opinion would be non-binding, but Vanuatu and supporters hope the forthcoming opinion, expected in about two years, will encourage governments to accelerate their climate action.
ICJ opinions are frequently considered by national courts and hold substantial moral and legal weight.
The adoption sends "a loud and clear message not only around the world but far into the future," Kalsakau said.
Why was the resolution proposed?
As part of the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries agreed to aim to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) with an upper limit of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 F). But governments have no legal obligation under the 2015 deal to meet their carbon emission reduction targets.
Supporters of the new resolution hope other instruments, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, could offer pathways for enforcement.
The UN's panel of climate experts (IPCC) also warned a week earlier that immediate climate action was needed due to rising global average temperatures.
They warned that the temperature levels could reach 1.5 degrees Celsius (34.7 Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial era by 2030-2035.
The new resolution would pave the way for "bolder and stronger climate action that our world so desperately needs," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
aa/sri (Reuters, ap, afp)