Australia joins Vanuatu bid for climate change advisory opinion as Cyclone Judy shows need for urgent action

SYDNEY, 2 March 2023 - Today’s announcement that the Australian government will co-sponsor Vanuatu’s landmark bid for an International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion on climate change is a welcome commitment to the Pacific family in addressing its main existential threat, says Greenpeace Australia Pacific.

© Stephanie Keith / Greenpeace

Australia is one of 105 nations officially registered as co-sponsors of the resolution, including the United Kingdom, France, and New Zealand. The groundswell of formal support follows the release of the final resolution at the UN General Assembly, where members will soon be asked to refer the matter to the ICJ, the world’s highest court.

It comes as Cyclone Judy lashes the island nation of Vanuatu with evacuations underway, which Pasifika activists say demonstrates the need for transformative, global initiatives that prevent climate harm and protect the human rights of vulnerable peoples. 

Shiva Gounden, Pacific advisor, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said: “As the people of Vanuatu look ahead yet again to repairing their communities and counting their losses, the support of Australia and other countries around the world will provide hope for a better future.

“Having been part of post-disaster work during Cyclone Winston in Fiji, during Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, and now during Cyclone Judy, I know the scale and pain of intangible losses like burial grounds being washed away, ancestral and cultural land that stood for centuries being completely decimated, and precious ways of life being lost forever.

“To see Australia and nations around the world standing with Vanuatu and Pacific island nations on the frontlines of the climate crisis cannot stop these impacts or end the pain they cause. But it does bring the Pacific Vuvale [family] closer together and show that the world recognises Pacific leadership in driving global solutions from the frontlines.”

Hon Minister Jotham Napat, Vanuatu’s Foreign Minister, said: “While severe Cyclone Judy is today showing no mercy on the people of Vanuatu it is welcoming news that countries are committing to co-sponsor Vanuatu’s UN Resolution on clarifying international climate obligations.”

The long-running campaign for an ICJ advisory opinion linking climate change and human rights began in a university classroom in Vanuatu, before being picked up by the Vanuatu government and put to the UN General Assembly. 

More than 1,500 civil society groups across 130 countries have endorsed the proposal, which is expected to strengthen states’ obligations to protect human rights from the adverse effects of climate change and catalyse more ambitious climate action. 



Images of Pasifika activists sailing past the UN HQ to the Statue of Liberty calling for nations to support climate justice through this resolution are available for download here

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