Vanuatu island © Getty Images

Climate Crisis: International court should play key role in delivering climate justice

Amnesty International is backing a call for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an opinion on states’ responsibilities and obligations surrounding the climate crisis.

A group of 18 countries, led by Vanuatu, is formally presenting a resolution to the UN General Assembly on 9 December asking that the UN Court issue an advisory opinion on the rights and obligations of countries under international law in relation to climate change. The resolution is due to be voted on in coming weeks, with a majority required to pass it.

Marta Schaaf, Amnesty International’s Director of Climate, Economic and Social Justice, and Corporate Accountability Programme said:

“The initiative to request an International Court of Justice advisory opinion on state obligations regarding climate change will clarify and strengthen the international legal framework and foster the ambitious action required to match the urgency and gravity of the climate crisis. The past year has been wracked by extreme weather events made much more likely by climate change, and reports from the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and others show immediate action is imperative.

“A robust advisory opinion from the ICJ can guide this action. The court will not make new legislation but will examine existing international law, particularly environmental law and human rights law, in the light of the scientific consensus on the causes and consequences of climate change.

By backing the resolution in the UN General Assembly, governments can show their support for tackling the climate crisis and for protecting the human rights of current and future generations. An overwhelming majority of states voting for this resolution would signal international determination to tackle the existential threat of climate change and advance a human rights-based approach to the climate crisis.”