Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Major climate diplomacy breakthrough at United Nations

The UN General Assembly has adopted a resolution seeking an advisory opinion on climate change and human rights from the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The decision is a milestone in a campaign launched over two years ago by the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change (PISFCC), in a law school classroom in Vanuatu. (https://www.ekklesia.co.uk/2023/04/10/major-climate-diplomacy-breakthrough-at-the-united-nations/) It was taken forward as a diplomatic endeavour by the Government of Vanuatu who worked alongside a core group of 18 nations to prepare the first draft of the resolution, and ultimately won the backing of over 120 countries before it was tabled in the UN. The adoption by consensus for an advisory opinion from the ICJ is unprecedented. An advisory opinion from the ICJ will provide clarity to States on their obligations under international law to protect their people, now and in the future, from climate impacts and their responsibility in upholding fundamental human rights. While non-binding in nature, it will add weight to efforts to hold governments accountable on their climate promises and strengthen climate negotiations in multilateral fora, and it can be cited in climate litigation. The decision is a significant diplomatic moment for Vanuatu and Pacific Island nations who have a strong legacy in climate leadership. For instance, Vanuatu and small island developing states have long championed the need for a Loss and Damage fund – which came to fruition at COP27- and more recently led a six-nation Pacific pledge, ‘Port Vila call‘, to phase out of fossil fuels and called for a global Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

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