New Zealand was among a group of 19 countries that tabled a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly, yesterday, asking the world’s highest court to clarify what international law requires of States in the face of the climate crisis. 

The resolution has been developed by the Republic of Vanuatu, with a group of 18 other nations.

“The final draft resolution is the culmination of a long-running campaign which began in a university classroom
in the Pacific Islands,” Vanuatu’s prime minister,  Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau said.

The proposed Resolution calls for an International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion on climate change
and human rights, a momentous moment for climate justice.

More than 1,700 civil society groups across 130 countries have endorsed the proposal, which
seeks clarity on states’ obligations to protect human rights and prevent significant harm to the climate system
and other parts of the environment from the adverse effects of climate change.

It is expected the advisory opinion from the ICJ will help states better prepare their domestic climate targets and
policies, as well as catalyse more ambitious climate collaboration among States to meet the world’s collective
goals of the Paris Agreement.

“We have consulted widely and thoroughly, taking advice from legal and scientific experts from around the
world as well as making consideration for all countries in regard to the language of the constructive and globally
beneficial questions we want to ask the ICJ,” Prime Minster Kalsakau said.

“We want legal clarity on our legal responsibilities when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions and for other
activities that may cause significant harm to vulnerable people.”

Prime minister Kalsakau has personally written to every state leader in the United Nations, requesting they
support this long-overdue question clarifying international law, and to stand with Vanuatu on the right side of
history in addressing the climate crisis.

“We have listened to the scientists; we have listened to our youth, and we believe this is a critical step towards
protecting the human rights of our young people and future generations with all States understanding their legal
obligations under existing international treaties and conventions as related to climate change.

“Only the United Nation’s principal legal organ, the ICJ, has a mandate to answer such questions across the
breath of international laws,” he said.

The final draft Resolution was released by Vanuatu and its partner countries today and is now open for all States
to co-sponsor before it is expected to be officially adopted by the UN General Assembly in March and then
moves on to the International Court of Justice for consideration.

The resolution was supported by a diverse group of nations: Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, Germany, Liechtenstein, Federated States of Micronesia, Morocco, Mozambique, New Zealand, Portugal, Romania, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Uganda, Vanuatu, and Vietnam