As a result of a United Nations decision on Wednesday, the world's highest court will offer its first opinion on the legal responsibility of nations to combat climate change. The International Court of Justice will now draft an advisory opinion that could be referenced in climate-related legal proceedings.
Vanuatu, a low-lying Pacific island nation threatened by increasing sea levels, submitted the motion.
The prime minister of Vanuatu, Ishmael Kalsakau, referred to it as "an amazing victory for climate justice." The proposal, which was supported by more than 130 countries, was met with applause.
The notion for the legal opinion was originally offered four years ago by law students in Fiji. Vanuatu, a nation with harsh experience of the consequences of rising temperatures, subsequently adopted the initiative. It occurred earlier this year, causing an estimated half of the nation's yearly GDP in damages.
These occurrences lent credence to Vanuatu's UN resolution requesting legal clarification on climate change responsibilities. The country emphasized that it is not seeking the court's ruling in order to impose new limitations, but rather to explain existing environmental requirements.
The resolution was carefully designed to avoid condemning countries such as the United States and China, which have contributed the most to the greenhouse gasses that are driving up global temperatures.
According to experts, although the ICJ's legal decision would not be enforceable, it might be cited in climate-related court disputes around the world. "Vanuatu considers today's historic resolution as the start of a new era in multilateral climate cooperation," Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau said in a video statement to the United Nations. The Netherlands-based ICJ will now have two years to evaluate its position.
Presently, under the Paris climate agreement, there is disagreement regarding a country's legal responsibility for the causes of global warming, according to attorneys backing the lawsuit.
Jorge Viuales, professor of law and environmental policy at Cambridge University and author of the legal question to be posed to the court, stated, "If you ask ten international environmental lawyers in good faith whether what's happening with emissions in many states is illegal under the Paris agreement, you will have an honest divide." "According to international law, that makes no sense.
Instead of focusing on the Paris Accord, one should examine the scope of international law and conclude, "It cannot be that killing the earth is legitimate." Advocates believe that a judgment by the International Court of Justice would certainly galvanize global climate action.
Countries may realize that failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions violates international law. The verdict may serve as a model for courts in countries around the world, influence UN negotiations on climate change, and influence fossil fuel companies' long-term investment decisions.
Prof. Viuales stated, "I believe it will shape the discourse; it might be a game-changer for new policies and for tightening existing ones." He mentioned that it may empower and inspire the civil society to do more along with establishing a new political narrative which may be utilized in elections for example.