The United Nations General Assembly adopted a historic resolution on Wednesday, requesting an advisory opinion on climate change from the International Court of Justice. That advisory opinion will not, itself, be legally binding, but could clarify legal obligations under other international agreements (including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the U.S. has ratified, and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the U.S. alone has not ratified).
“The International Court of Justice can translate the clear scientific evidence that fossil fuels are driving the climate crisis into clear legal imperatives to phase them out now and implement proven, available solutions. An advisory opinion could help spur greater accountability for the mounting suffering caused by states’ failure to act,” Nikki Reisch from the Center for International Environmental Law told The Guardian.
While the U.S. did not formally object to the resolution, a State Department spokesperson said the U.S. believes “Launching a judicial process … will likely accentuate disagreements and not be conducive to advancing our ongoing diplomatic and other processes.” Proponents, like Vanuatu Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau, hailed the resolution as “a win for climate justice of epic proportions.”
“We are just ecstatic that the world has listened to the Pacific youth,” said Cynthia Houniuhi, president of Pacific Island students fighting climate change (PISFCC). “Through no fault of our own, we are living with devastating tropical cyclones, flooding, biodiversity loss and sea level rise. We have contributed the least to the global emissions that are drowning our land.” (AP, The Guardian, Axios, Reuters, E&E $, Inside Climate News, New York Times $; U.S. statement: Washington Post $)