The UN General Assembly took a major step towards urgent global climate action on Wednesday when members passed a resolution calling on the world body’s top court to outline nations’ legal obligations related to curbing warming.
Cheers rang out when the measure – hailed as a victory for the climate justice movement, which hopes to increase pressure on polluting countries failing to address the global warming emergency – was approved by consensus.
Pushed for years by Vanuatu, a small archipelago whose future is threatened by rising sea levels, and by the youth of Pacific islanders, the resolution calls on the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to review nations’ obligations to protect the Earth’s climate and the legal ramifications set forth they stand if they don’t.
“Together you make history,” said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, stressing that an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice, even if not binding, “would help the General Assembly, the United Nations and Member States to be bolder and stronger.” climate action our world needs so badly.”
The resolution, which was ultimately co-sponsored by more than 130 member states, was widely expected to be adopted.
“Today we witnessed a victory for climate justice of epic proportions,” said Prime Minister of Vanuatu Ishmael Kalsakau, whose country was devastated by two powerful cyclones earlier this month.
It is “a win for people and communities around the world who are on the frontlines of the climate crisis,” said Lavetanalagi Seru, regional policy coordinator for the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network.
The Vanuatu government began lobbying for the measure in 2021, after a campaign launched in 2019 by a group of students at a Fiji university.
The passage comes at a critical time, days after the IPCC panel of United Nations climate experts warned that average global temperatures could reach 1.5C above pre-industrial levels by 2030-2035, urging the need for drastic action this year decade underlines.
– ‘Most importantly’ –
While nations have no legal obligation to meet emissions reduction targets under the 2015 Paris Agreement, supporters of the new resolution hope other instruments, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, could provide avenues for enforcement.
“This resolution focuses on human rights and intergenerational equity in tackling climate change — two critical points that have been missing from much of the dominant discourse,” Shaina Sadai of the Union for Concerned Scientists advocacy group told AFP.
Describing the new resolution as “the most important global move since the Paris Agreement feels right,” Sadai said, adding it is a crucial next step to “deal with lawsuits being brought in courts around the world.” to give orientation.
The passage comes on the same day that cases opened in the European Court of Human Rights against France and Switzerland over alleged failings to protect the environment, marking the first time governments are on trial for alleged inaction on climate change.
Although ICJ opinions are not binding, they carry significant legal and moral weight and are often taken into account by national courts.
– ‘Bigger than our fears’ –
Vanuatu and its supporters hope the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion, expected in about two years, will encourage governments to speed up action.
However, the enthusiasm is not universal.
“I see scenarios where this request would be counterproductive,” Benoit Mayer, an international law specialist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told AFP.
He warned of a possible “catastrophic scenario” if the ICJ’s opinion is “clear and concise but contrary to what the proponents of the motion wanted”.
Although no country objected to the unanimous adoption of the resolution, the United States and China, the world’s two largest emitters, were not co-sponsors.
“We have serious concerns that this process could complicate our joint efforts and will not bring us any closer to achieving these common goals,” said US Secretary Nicholas Hill, stressing that he prefers diplomacy to “a judicial process” that amplifies disagreements could, he warned.
Specifically, the resolution calls on the ICJ to clarify “legal ramifications” for states that “have caused significant damage to the climate system and other parts of the environment.”
Specifically, it asks the court to weigh up obligations to “small island developing States” that are “particularly vulnerable” to climate change and obligations to future generations.
During negotiations for the Paris Agreement, US diplomats secured the addition of wording stating that the text “does not imply or constitute a basis for liability or compensation.”
Source : news.yahoo.com