UN adopts landmark resolution on climate justice

Thursday, Mar 30, 2023

UNITED NATIONS, United States: The UN General Assembly on Wednesday adopted by consensus and to cheers a resolution calling for the world body´s top court to outline legal obligations related to climate change.

Pushed for years by Vanuatu and Pacific islander youth, the measure asks the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to lay out nations´ obligations for protecting Earth´s climate, and the legal consequences they face if they don´t.

“Together, you are making history,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, emphasizing that even if non-binding, an opinion from the International Court of Justice “would assist the General Assembly, the UN and member states to take the bolder and stronger climate action that our world so desperately needs.” Ultimately co-sponsored by more than 130 member states, the resolution had been widely expected to be approved.

Its adoption sends “a loud and clear message not only around the world, but far into the future,” Vanuatu´s Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau told the assembly. The resolution asks the ICJ to clarify the “obligations of states under international law to ensure the protection of the climate system.”

Kalsakau, whose archipelago nation was ravaged by two cyclones over the course of just a few days, emphasized that the world body had “decided to leave aside differences and work together to tackle the defining challenge of our times, climate change.”

The government of Vanuatu started lobbying for the climate resolution in 2021, after a campaign initiated by a group of students from a university in Fiji in 2019. A week ago, the UN´s panel of climate experts (IPCC) warned that global average temperatures could reach 1.5 C above the pre-industrial era by as early as 2030-2035, underlining the need for drastic action this decade.