Governments will now be forced to consider the human rights impacts of their climate policies and be compelled to take more ambitious action under existing international agreements, thanks to a Vanuatu led resolution passed with unanimous support from members of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
The UNGA will now ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an advisory opinion on countries’ duties to protect human rights from the climate crisis, after a campaign spearheaded by university students in Vanuatu swept the globe gaining the support of over 120 cosponsoring countries, including Australia, the United Kingdom, France and New Zealand.
The ICJ will now hold hearings and request submissions, with a view to issuing an advisory opinion in 2024.
Shiva Gounden, Pacific Advisor at Greenpeace Australia Pacific said this is the latest, and arguably most powerful demonstration of global climate leadership from those most impacted by the climate crisis.
“Pacific island nations suffer the most devastating impacts to their lives, livelihoods, and cultures, despite contributing the least to the climate crisis,” he said.
“In the face of this destruction, the hope, determination and courage of Pacific peoples shines through. These proud people know that their lands and ways of living are worth saving – and have the courage, conviction, and the plan to do so”.
This vote launches the next phase of the campaign, where every UNGA country will have the opportunity to make submissions to the ICJ. Greenpeace is supporting the student-led campaign and calling on world leaders to help strengthen international safeguards for human rights threatened by the climate crisis.
Katrina Bullock, General Counsel at Greenpeace Australia Pacific said today’s news codifies an extraordinary story of vision, determination, and collaboration.
“The next step is no less important as the campaign moves to the ICJ at The Hague. As the ICJ convenes to consider the case and collects submissions from around the world, these illustrious judges must keep the Pacific peoples on the frontline of the climate crisis to the front of their minds.
“They must understand why the idea came from the Pacific, why it is fundamental to climate justice, and why the rest of the world came onboard.”
Greenpeace is today announcing a tour of the Pacific by its iconic flagship, the Rainbow Warrior. The ship will travel through the Pacific, creating a platform for communities most impacted by the climate crisis to share their testimonies and amplifying their calls for justice in The Hague, to ensure that the world’s highest court will deliver on the world’s greatest human rights threat.
“Pacific stories inspired this historic campaign. Now, they’re being presented as evidence to help sail the case to a momentous conclusion,” said Bullock.
“It’s time for Australia and countries around the world to join the Pacific journey, help sail the advisory opinion to a momentous conclusion, and protect current and future generations from the harmful impacts of climate change,” added Gounden.
Julian Aguon, Founder of Blue Ocean Law said today is a day to celebrate.
“Thanks to the determined efforts of Vanuatu, joined now by the rest of the world, we are one step closer to finally delivering on the promise of climate justice. It has been the great honor of my professional life to assist the government of Vanuatu in this effort, which in the end is about ensuring nothing less than the future habitability of the earth.”
Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh, Legal Counsel who leads Blue Ocean Law’s legal team with Aguon said the true significance of this resolution lies in the unique contribution that the world’s highest court could make to global action on climate change.
“By providing authoritative advice to all nations, the Court could unlock the power of international law to bring about the kind of deep change that the climate crisis requires.”