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Taking Climate Change to the Top Court

An International Court of Justice advisory opinion on climate and human rights would influence countries’ climate goals and policies, help strengthen multilateralism, and catalyze more ambitious action. At the United Nations General Assembly later this year, governments will have a chance to start the process.

HONIARA, SOLOMON ISLANDS – Three years ago, a group of law students from across the Pacific met at a university campus in Vanuatu. We came together to discuss how we could put our legal knowledge to work in order to take a stand on the climate crisis that threatened our countries, our cultures, and our futures. Today, we are on the cusp of taking the world’s biggest problem to the world’s highest court.

Here in the Pacific, we are on the front line of the climate crisis. We have contributed the least to the global pollution that is warming our planet, but we are suffering greatly from its consequences. Our region has been hit by increasingly frequent Category 5 cyclones, our cultural sites are threatened by rising sea levels, and our vital marine ecosystems are on the verge of being destroyed.

Countries around the world have consistently failed to take necessary steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in order to limit global warming, and to provide for loss and damage already caused by climate change. International law has so far failed to compel polluting countries to make the changes needed to ensure a safe climate for all. The campaign for the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion on climate change was born of our determination to put Pacific voices at the forefront of the climate debate, not as victims pleading for charity, but as advocates demanding justice.