The UN adopted a landmark resolution for climate justice

FILE – Sukarman walks through a flooded path outside his home on July 30, 2022, in Timbulsloko, Central Java, Indonesia. (AP PHOTO/Dita Alangkara, File) (Dita Alangkara/)

The UN General Assembly adopted by consensus on Wednesday a “historic” resolution to request the opinion of international justice on the “obligations” of states in the fight against global warming.

“Historic” step, “moment that will go down in history”, “triumph of international climate diplomacy”. Many NGOs and states, among the 130 that sponsored the resolution –among which are neither the United States nor China– welcomed this text.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) it will have to give its opinion on “the obligations incumbent on states” in the protection of the climate system “for present and future generations”.

“Together, they are writing history,” said the UN Secretary General, Anthony Guterresto the delegates when estimating that although it is not binding, the opinion of the judicial body of the organization could help the leaders of the planet to adopt “brave and strong” climate measures.

“Today we have witnessed an epic victory for climate justice,” said Ishmael Kalsakau, prime minister of Vanuatu, an archipelago in the Pacific that was hit by two powerful cyclones in the space of a few days.

It is also a “victory for the peoples and communities around the world who are on the front lines of the climate crisis.”commented Lavetanalagi Seru, coordinator in the Pacific of the NGO network Climate Action Network.

FILE - Children walk in an area affected by drought near the Solimoes river, in Tefe, Brazil, on Oct. 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Edmar Barros, File)
File – Children walk in an area affected by drought near the Solimoes river, in Tefe, Brazil, on October 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Edmar Barros, File) (Edmar Barros/)

Legal and moral weight

The Vanuatu government launched this initiative in 2021, after two years earlier a group of Fijian university students launched a campaign to save their islands, which may disappear due to rising sea levels.

A week ago, the UN climate experts (Giec) warned that warming will increase +1.5º already in 2030-2035, compared to the industrial era, the most ambitious goal of the Paris Agreement.

As the national commitments of states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not binding under the Paris Agreement, the resolution urges the use of other instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“This resolution puts human rights and equality between generations on climate change at the center – two key elements that are generally absent from the mainstream discourse,” he told the AFP Shaina Sadai of the Union of Concerned Scientists think tank as the European Court of Human Rights is holding a hearing on a first climate lawsuit against France and Switzerland.

“Describing (the resolution) as the most important advance globally since the Paris Agreement seems accurate,” he added, as it is an “incredibly important step” since it can serve as a “guide” for national courts around the worldwho increasingly have to face more lawsuits against states.

Although ICJ opinions are not binding, they carry significant legal and moral weight, which is often taken into account by national courts.

FILE PHOTO: Damage in the aftermath of Cyclone Kevin, in Port Vila, Vanuatu, March 4, 2023, in a screenshot obtained from a video on social media.  REUTERS/DevMode
FILE PHOTO: Damage in the aftermath of Cyclone Kevin, in Port Vila, Vanuatu, March 4, 2023, in a screenshot obtained from a video on social media. REUTERS/DevMode (DEVMODE/)

American disagreement

Vanuatu and its supporters hope the resolution will spur governments to speed up their action, either on their own initiative or through lawsuits against states that are multiplying around the world.

An enthusiasm that not everyone shares. Although no country has objected to the adoption of the resolution by consensus, the United States and China, the world’s top emitters, did not sponsor the text.

After the vote, The United States expressed its disagreement with the initiative. “We are very concerned that this process could complicate our collective efforts and take us no closer to common climate goals,” said U.S. Representative Nicholas Hill, who said he preferred “diplomacy” to a “judicial process” that could “accentuate disagreements.” ”.

The resolution refers to the “actions” of the states responsible for warming and their “obligations” towards the small island states as well as the populations of today and the future affected.

This is a crucial issue in the struggle of the poorest countries to obtain financing to repair “loss and damage”, but one that may worry countries opposed to any idea of ​​”reparations” for their responsibility in global warming.

During the negotiations of the Paris agreement, the United States obtained a clause that specified that the text “shall not be used as a basis” to commit “responsibility or compensation.”

(With information from AFP)

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