Island nation Vanuatu sends climate resolution to UN for court opinion

General view of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague
General view of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yves Herman

WASHINGTON, Nov 30 (Reuters) - The island nation Vanuatu and 17 other countries on Wednesday published a draft resolution asking the world's top court to clarify what responsibilities governments around the world have to protect future generations from climate change.

The release of the legal question the countries want to be taken up by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) marks a milestone in the years-long effort by Vanuatu to get legal clarification for all countries regarding the impacts of climate change.

The resolution, which the United Nations General Assembly is expected to vote on early next year, will ask the ICJ for clarification on what the obligations of states are to protect the climate system and environment for present and future generations.

It will also ask the court to define what the legal consequences under these obligations are for states, which through their acts or lack of action, have caused harm to the climate system.

"The ICJ Advisory Opinion will clarify, for all states, our obligations under a range of international laws, treaties and agreements, so that we can all do more to protect vulnerable

people across the world," Vanuatu Foreign Minister Jothan Napat said in a statement.

The campaign by the South Pacific island nation to get the world's top court to take a stance on protecting people from climate change gained momentum at the COP27 climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, this month, with more than 80 developed and developing nations supporting the effort.

ICJ advisory proceedings involve a series of hearings, which give a platform to all countries to provide evidence. An advisory opinion would not request compensation or reparations, the Vanuatu government said.

A vote at the U.N. General Assembly to request the ICJ advisory opinion would only require a majority to proceed.

An opinion by the ICJ could bring about greater climate action, campaigners said.

"In the wake of COP27, which failed to see improved commitments to phase out fossil fuels or sufficient measures to keep the critical 1.5°C target within reach, this question has major implications for catalysing greater ambition, leadership, and action to address the root causes of climate change," Katrina Bullock, General Counsel for Greenpeace Australia Pacific said.

Scientists say limiting average planetary warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius is important to avert the worst effects of climate change. The world has already warmed more than 1.1C from the preindustrial average temperature.

Editing by Janet Lawrence

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