Evergreen: Sailing for climate justice in the Pacific
12 October 2023
© Greenpeace / Sam Pedro
It was March this year, during a United Nations General Assembly, that 132 countries voted “yes” for Pacific Climate Justice.
Specifically, these countries passed a motion proposed by the Vanuatu government, calling on the International Court of Justice to deliver an advisory opinion that confirms the devastating impacts of climate change on human rights..
In doing so, the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion (or ICJ AO for short) would clarify the obligations owed by countries to protect the rights of both current and future generations from climate change.
We know that strong and compelling evidence about the impacts that climate change is already having on communities across the world will play a key role in convincing the court to hand down a decisive and authoritative opinion. That’s why the Rainbow Warrior visited the Pacific earlier this year; to document the human rights impacts of climate change in this region.
We sailed to Port Vila and Erromango in Vanuatu, then onwards to Tuvalu, followed by Suva, Kioa, and Rabi – all islands in Fiji. We were welcomed into the homes and hearts of countless people who most generously shared their experience of a changing climate and how it has impacted on their human rights to their homes, their cultures, and their livelihoods. These stories will live on in our hearts, and amplify the strength of our upcoming submission to the International Court of Justice. Read on for some of these stories from the island of Pele – just one of the many places we visited whilst in the Pacific.
We walked with a local healer named Winnie, who recalled the uses of the medicinal plants that have been lost due to climate change and shared the repercussions of this loss for her children when they fall ill.
We knelt with Sister Lizzie in a Pele graveyard and mourned after we learned that an additional 20 of the village’s ancestral graves had been swallowed by the sea since her last visit to the site which was a day before the twin cyclones Judy and Kevin hit the region in March this year.
Flora Vano, country manager for ActionAid Vanuatu has been helping communities face the dangers of a changing climate. She shared with us how when the twin cyclones came, communication with Erromango was down. Nobody answered her calls, leaving her to wonder if anyone on Erromango had survived at all. It was three days before Flora heard that there were no casualties, thanks to all the hard work that the women had done to fortify their communities beforehand. Watch her story in full with this video.
Women are not only disproportionately impacted by climate change, but are also often the first responders to climate disasters. Flora is advocating for the leadership of Indigenous women to be acknowledged as a powerful treasure in building climate resilience.
The ICJ AO’s potential to safeguard the human rights of frontline communities, current and future generations in the face of climate change, is why this work is of utmost importance to Greenpeace. Our mission to secure a strong Advisory Opinion is also something that we feel will strongly resonate with you, a legacy gift supporter, who has made a generous commitment to protect future generations through a gift in your Will.