Environment & Biodiversity

Climate Justice and the International Court of Justice

On March 29, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on nations’ obligations to reduce climate change.

Vanuatu is seeking climate compensation

  • The Pacific Island of Vanuatu, which was devastated by Cyclone Pam in 2015, pushed for the resolution, which was approved unanimously.
  • This resolution is important because it invokes Article 96 of the United Nations Charter to clarify states’ legal obligations to safeguard the climate system.

What does Resolution A/77/L.58 seek?

  • The draught motion (A/77/L.58) requests that the ICJ rule on two issues:
  • State obligations: To guarantee the protection of the climate system for current and future generations under international law
  • Legal ramifications: What are the legal ramifications for states that have caused significant damage to the climate system, especially Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and for individuals who have been harmed?

Vanuatu’s regulatory frameworks

  • The motion makes reference to a number of international treaties, including the Paris Agreement, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

What do the resolution’s supporters want?

  • The resolution’s supporters anticipate that an advisory opinion from the ICJ will strengthen efforts under the global climate pledge.
  • The opinion is also expected to explain more contentious issues, such as the developed world’s climate reparations.
  • Legal responsibility for nations that fail to meet their NDC commitments Climate support for the world’s most vulnerable regions

What is India’s position on this?

  • India has been deafeningly silent on the motion, despite its general support for climate justice and holding the developed world accountable for global warming.
  • Unlike its neighbours Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, India did not co-sponsor the draught motion.

What would happen if the International Court of Justice intervened?

  • Only advisory opinion: The ICJ is being requested for an advisory opinion, which is not legally binding in the same way that an ICJ judgement is.
  • Moral duty is stated: The International Court of Justice bears “legal weight and moral authority.”
  • Symbolic significance: The ICJ’s clarification of international environmental laws would streamline the process, especially as the COP process considers various issues such as climate finance, climate justice, and the newly agreed-upon “loss and damages,” among others.

@the end

  • The UNGA resolution requesting an advisory opinion from the ICJ is a positive move towards clarifying states’ legal obligations to mitigate climate change and safeguard the environment for future generations.
  • Countries must continue to engage in diplomatic efforts and work towards common goals to ensure the success of this endeavour.
  • Countries should also fully participate in the ICJ process and respect the advisory opinion delivered by the court.
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