This tiny little island nation of Gen Z activists, just turned the page on making major countries responsible for the devastating effects on climate change.
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution spearheaded by the small island nation of Vanuatu and Gen Z youth activists to seek a legal opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to clarify the obligations of Countries to tackle the climate crisis and the consequences they should face for inaction.
The resolution, which was co-sponsored by over 120 countries, aims to establish a legal litmus test for the global climate justice movement, seeking to hold countries accountable for their climate failures in courts.
Although the ICJ's opinion will not be binding in domestic courts, advocates hope it will help strengthen climate-related litigation by enabling vulnerable states and advocates to hold countries accountable for their action and inaction.
The Island Vanuatu. A Climate Crisis Victim
Vanuatu, a small Pacific island nation, has been significantly affected by climate change. Rising sea levels, increasingly severe tropical storms and cyclones, and changing rainfall patterns have caused serious damage to Vanuatu's infrastructure and threatened the livelihoods and safety of its people. For instance, in 2015, Vanuatu was hit by Cyclone Pam, a Category 5 storm that caused widespread destruction and displaced thousands of people. Additionally, the country faces the threat of losing its entire coastal infrastructure due to sea level rise. Vanuatu is one of many low-lying island nations that are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change despite contributing relatively little to global greenhouse gas emissions.
An Historic Victory
The resolution was hailed as a historic victory for climate justice, placing human rights and intergenerational equity at the forefront of climate decision-making. The vote was seen as a win for Pacific island nations, which have been facing extreme climate effects, including sea-level rise, devastating tropical cyclones, flooding, biodiversity loss and irreversible effects of extreme weather events. The resolution will help establish climate action obligations under international law and clarify the legal obligation of countries to fulfill their commitments to non-binding treaties such as the 2015 Paris climate accord.
The resolution emerged out of mounting frustration at the mismatch between the global community's rhetoric and action on climate change, and it represents the first attempt to establish climate action obligations under international law. Island nations and developing countries such as Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Madagascar, and Sri Lanka have contributed least to global greenhouse-gas emissions, yet are bearing the brunt of erratic and extreme weather events, upending water and food security, and fueling forced migration.
The US is not participating but the UK is!
Although the US did not sponsor the resolution, over 120 countries including the UK co-sponsored it. The resolution comes at a time when the world is witnessing a final report by the IPCC, underscoring the urgent need to phase out fossil fuels to avoid catastrophic climate chaos. The resolution will help establish a legal precedent for holding polluting countries accountable for failing to tackle the climate emergency.