Vanuatu’s push for legal protection from climate change gets important support | Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s push for an international tribunal to protect vulnerable countries from climate change has received support from 1,500 civil society organizations from more than 130 countries, as it heads to a landmark vote in the UN General Assembly later this year.

In 2021 Vanuatu announced its intention to seek an advisory opinion by an international tribunal on the rights of current and future generations to be protected from climate change.

If successful, the ICJ’s advisory opinion – although not binding – carries the legal weight and moral authority that experts say could help shape international law. Such opinions can also influence domestic and regional courts and tribunals when dealing with issues related to climate change.

Vanuatu is trying to build support for its motion ahead of the UN General Assembly later this year, where it needs to secure at least 97 votes, for the matter to be referred to the ICJ.

The alliance, announced on Friday, represents more than 1,500 civil society organizations (CSOs) from around the world, including leading climate groups from the Pacific: Climate Action Network – International, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Oxfam in the Pacific, 350 Pacific, Pacific Islands Action Network Vanuatu’s Climate and Climate Action Network.

An independent observer of the Vanuatu campaign said the alliance could pressure other countries to support Vanuatu’s initiative.

“This puts this CSO’s burden behind the initiative, which will put pressure on other countries to support the initiative. There have been similar proposals before, which have been pushed by other Pacific nations, such as Palau in 2011, which have been derailed by pressure from rich countries, such as the United States,” said Fleur Ramsay, a Pacific island lawyer who specializes in climate and climate change. environmental law with the Office of the Environmental Defender.

Vanuatu has engaged Pacific law firm, Blue Ocean Law, to represent them in their campaign for advisory opinions and has retained external advisors to assist with legal strategy development, including lawyers from the UK, US, France, Canada, Greece, India, Switzerland and Fiji. .

Vanuatu’s Prime Minister Bob Loughman speaks remotely at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2021. Photo: Eduardo Muñoz/AP

Joseph Sikulu, Pacific Director at said the alliance was an extension of the important advocacy Pacific island nations have been doing on climate change over the years.

“The Pacific has shown that governments and civil society can work together to achieve impactful change; the 1.5 degree benchmark embedded in the Paris Agreement is proof of that. Through this alliance we hope to continue to forge joint advocacy at all levels to build on the momentum behind the Vanuatu Government’s push for Advisory Opinions.”

Vanuatu is one of the countries most affected by the climate crisis, with a combination of climate risks that include rising sea levels and temperatures, as well as extreme weather events including typhoons, storm surges, landslides, floods and droughts.

It is also among Pacific nations at the forefront of the climate struggle. Vanuatu has been a vocal advocate in limiting the temperature rise from global warming to 1.5C. Pacific Nations launched an online data modeling tool to understand and prepare for the potential impacts of high tides and storm surges. It is also experimenting with crossbreeding plant varieties to identify climate resistant crops including taro. Vanuatu ratified the Paris Agreement in 2016 and is one of 43 countries on the Climate Vulnerable Forum.

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2021, Vanuatu Prime Minister Bob Loughman said: “The dire consequences of climate change can no longer be ignored, and the science linking climate change to past and present greenhouse gas emissions is now under way. out of range. question. Climate change is driving sea level rise, desertification, redistribution of disease, floods, unprecedented ‘heat domes’, typhoons, hurricanes and other extreme weather events.”

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