At this week’s Pacific Climate Justice Summit, attended by hundreds of NGOs and civil society stakeholders from across the Pacific and beyond, a strong call was made for the Prime Minister of Vanuatu to raise a proposal on climate change at this week’s Pacific Island Forum Leaders Meeting.

In 2019, Vanuatu asked Pacific leaders to support a movement towards a UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution seeking an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the obligations of States under international law to protect the rights of present and future generations against the adverse effects of climate change.

Climate change is devastating Pacific lives and livelihoods, and climate change negotiations are not moving fast enough, and legal avenues are needed to make transformational change.  Civil society are now asking Vanuatu’s Prime Minister not to let the 2019 proposal die out, and reintroduce it this week so that it forms a part of the 2021 Pacific Leaders Declaration.   

Ms. Hilda Lini made a presentation to the virtual Summit reminding participants on how Vanuatu successfully lobbied for UN action on nuclear proliferation through an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice.  She believes that Vanuatu and the Pacific will successfully lead the charge to finally address the climate emergency.

Climate change requires the same attention by courts and legal jurisdictions around the world so that those countries, corporations and individuals who are most responsible for climate change will be held to account.

Mr. Joe Kalo of the Vanuatu National Council of Youth called on Vanuatu’s Prime Minister to make a case to all Pacific leaders at the upcoming Forum meeting to support this call for an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice.  “Our Youth will face the brunt of this crisis. We have to use all avenues to make fossil fuel producing countries stop the destruction to our future generations.”

Climate change remains to be the single greatest threat to the Pacific people’s livelihood, security, and wellbeing, and has over the years exacerbated other development challenges. In 2015, the global community agreed to limit warming to 1.5 degrees but have not lived up to this promise. Commitments continue to be insufficient to meet the 1.5-degree goal that was agreed to in Paris that will give the Pacific a chance to survive. The recent published National Determined Contributions Synthesis Report1 captured the national climate plans of 75 parties of the Paris Agreement, representing 30% of the global greenhouse gas emissions has a combined impact to achieve a reduction of 1% by 2030, and is far from putting the world on a pathway to meet the Paris goals.

In the Pacific, communities are at the frontline, experiencing and battling the adverse impacts of the climate crisis, an issue that they have little to contribute to. Further at the peripheries are marginalized and/or vulnerable groups, such as the indigenous people, children, youth, people with disabilities, persons of diverse sexual orientation, gender identities and expressions and elderly people who disproportionately have to live with the impact of climate crisis, often undermining the full enjoyment of their human rights, and driving further economic and social inequalities, including gender inequality.

With the theme “The Rising Tide: A United Pacific for Climate Justice”, the summit this week brought together a wide range of key actors from national governments, civil society, faith communities, development partners and communities with the primary objective of solidifying a strong human rights and climate justice policy positions in lead up to COP 26.

For more information, contact the Vanuatu Climate Action Network vanuatuclimateactionnetwork@gmail.com

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