March 2023

Small Island Developing States champion initiative to seek World Court Advisory Opinion

The Quaker United Nations Office welcomes the landmark decision by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for an advisory opinion on “the obligations of States in respect of climate change.” The UNGA decision came after Vanuatu led a core group of nations, made up mostly of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and others, including New Zealand, to bring forward the resolution to the General Assembly.

The UNGA resolution aims to hold present generations accountable to those who have not yet been born. Intergenerational justice is a powerful moral call for urgent, effective, and ethical action, to ensure we act now to protect all children and future generations from catastrophic rise in global temperatures. It reminds us that the continued emissions of greenhouse gasses will lock us into ongoing and lasting climate change. As both intangible and tangible losses and damages associated with the climate crisis continue to increase, and as States continue down paths of insufficient mitigation and maladaptation, support for intergenerational justice from the ICJ would signal the need for urgent, systems transformative, ethical, and sustainable climate action now.

The ICJ is the only mechanism of the United Nations system which has not yet addressed the climate emergency. The requested advisory opinion could be an important tool in assisting states to strengthen domestic policies and legislation as well as provide guidance in improving their Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement. The opinion will help to clarify and underscore the responsibilities governments have to protecting future generations from climate change.

You can watch the full meeting here.

Photo caption and credit: Prime Minister of Vanuatu Briefs Press on ICJ and Climate Change. UN Photo/Manuel Elias

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