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United Nations

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UN General Assembly seeks International Court of Justice guidance on climate-related state obligations.

On 29 March 2023, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution, put forward by the Pacific island of Vanuatu, to ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an advisory opinion: (i) explaining what, if any, international law obligations states have to protect the climate from the impact of greenhouse gas emissions; and (ii) providing guidance on the legal consequences for states which have caused significant harm to the climate by their actions and omissions (noting in particular harm which has been caused to developing nations and to individuals). Ahead of the General Assembly’s vote, the resolution had received support from over 120 co-sponsoring countries, including the UK and various European nations.
ICJ advisory opinion
ICJ advisory opinions are rare; this will be only the 29th advisory opinion given by the ICJ since the Court was established in 1946, and the first concerning the climate and environment. While the ICJ’s advisory opinions are non-binding, they are nevertheless regarded by many as carrying significant legal and moral weight. In particular, some envisage that the ICJ’s opinion could prompt governments to revisit their climate policies and priorities and that, if the ICJ is of the view that states are under international law obligations to protect the climate from the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions, this is likely to add further momentum to new climate litigation.
As ICJ advisory opinions are non-binding and relate only to the potential liability of states and governments, the ICJ’s opinion in relation to this issue will not directly impact businesses. However, businesses could indirectly be impacted if, on the basis of the opinion, states and inter-governmental bodies decide to implement new legislation and policies which attempt to accelerate de-carbonization and mandate further action be taken to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Loss and damage
The recitals to the General Assembly’s resolution emphasize the need to avert, minimise and address ‘loss and damage’ caused by the effects of climate change, particularly in developing countries. Last year, Vanuatu became one of the first countries to suggest means to address loss and damage caused by climate change. In an update to its Nationally Determined Contributions under the 2015 Paris Agreement, the nation called for the establishment of a loss and damage fund under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which would see the most climate-affected nations receive compensation from other nations.
Loss and damage was also addressed at the two most recent COP climate change summits, with Scotland becoming the first country to commit to compensating affected nations by pledging £2 million for a loss and damage scheme at COP26 (followed by a further £5 million at COP27).
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  • Videlis Eddie

    51 w

    This is great

    • zelda ninga

      51 w

      This is good news for the whole World.

      • Rukia Ahmed Abdi

        51 w

        this is great

        • john linus Tom

          51 w

          This is a great work, it will save the world, what if all organization think positively

          • Komu Daniel

            51 w

            Great move. States need to be held accountable.

            • Munene Mugambi

              51 w

              Good to see UN take environmental matters seriously

              • Richard S

                51 w


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