‘The Pacific can’t survive if richest corporations and governments continue to put profits over people and planet’

SUVA, May 6 2022 - Vanuatu Prime Minister Bob Loughman has warned that the survival of the Pacific is in peril if the world’s biggest polluters continue to put profit over people and planet, in Suva overnight.

Prime Minister Loughman made the remarks at the launch event for a powerful coalition of civil society groups who have come together to support the Government of Vanuatu’s push to seek an International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on climate change and human rights.

“We who have contributed the least to carbon pollution continue to bear the greatest burden. The climate crisis is heart-wrenching. The climate crisis is a moral crisis, a crisis of conscience. The climate crisis is either a willful ignorance of the scientific evidence or a heartless, unprovoked and unjustified aggression by fossil fuel interests against our present and future generations and against our planet. The climate crisis is a human rights crisis,” Mr Loughman said.

Vanuatu is seeking to integrate human rights law into the way that the world, and individual nations, respond to and act on climate change, aiming to:

  • Integrate separate areas of international law, such as human rights law and environmental law; 
  • Provide impetus and authority for more ambitious action under the Paris Agreement to fulfil existing human rights obligations; 
  • Cement consensus on the scientific evidence of climate change; and 
  • Help inform international and domestic law to clarify the obligations of states in protecting human rights. 

Prime Minister Loughman said the court process is about inspiring the world to greater climate ambition, rather than laying blame at the feet of individual nations.

“This is a campaign for the world’s most vulnerable for all of humanity and our collective future,” he said.

“This is a campaign about what we must save, not what has been lost. This is a campaign to build ambition, not division. This is a campaign to uplift the goals of the Paris Agreement. This is a campaign for the young generations’ call for justice to the world’s highest court.”

Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change Campaign Director, Solomon Yeo, said “The ICJAO campaign presents a grand opportunity for the Pacific to use another tool from our toolbelt in our collective fight for climate justice. We Pacific Islanders are one of the world’s most outstanding storytellers and the ICJ presents the perfect platform where we can amplify the stories on how people and the planet are more valuable than greed and profit to help inform the Court in giving their sacred advice to accelerate our global fight for climate justice.”

The Regional Policy Coordinator for the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, Lavetanalagi Seru, said that an advisory opinion is essential.

“The greatest injustice of our time is that millions of people continue to suffer, their human rights undermined, and life impoverished, as a result of climate inaction and the lack of political will from our leaders.

“This campaign to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice is critical to frontline climate affected communities, ensuring that every climate action and initiatives by our Governments are grounded on the principles of human rights, justice, and intergenerational equity.”

Greenpeace Australia Pacific Climate Justice Campaigner Justin Rose said that climate change is already causing a human rights crisis. 

“Livelihoods, healthcare and the environment are already being severely impacted, perhaps nowhere more so than in the Pacific. Evidence presented by vulnerable countries to the  International Court of Justice will prove beyond doubt that climate change is affecting people’s human rights and create legal clarity on how to address it,” he said.

“An advisory opinion would carry  great legal weight and encourage countries to look at climate change through a human rights lens.”

 

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Background

What is the Government of Vanuatu Doing?

In September 2021, during the annual session of the UN General Assembly, the Honorable Bob Loughman Weibur, Prime Minister of the Republic of Vanuatu, announced his intention to build a coalition of States to seek an advisory opinion on climate change from the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Vanuatu’s diplomatic campaign is led by His Excellency Ambassador Odo Tevi, Vanuatu’s Special Envoy on Climate Change and Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

The interest of this initiative goes beyond the concerns of Vanuatu: it is of utmost importance for all climate vulnerable countries and peoples and ultimately for the world at large. Vanuatu sees this initiative as an opportunity for all States, and in particular climate vulnerable States, to raise awareness about climate change and its disproportionate impacts on the most vulnerable.

Already states are signing on to the campaign. At the thirty-third inter-sessional Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on March 2022, Heads of Government have indicated their support for Vanuatu in its pursuit of an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice on the rights of present and future generations to be protected from Climate Change.

More information can be found at https://www.vanuatuicj.com/ 

 

What is an International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion?

Climate change is causing a human rights crisis, with hundreds of millions of people in vulnerable countries already being denied their human rights. Livelihoods, healthcare and the environment are already being severely impacted. Youth and future generations will be the most affected by the climate crisis. An International Court of Justice ruling will explore how climate change is affecting the human rights of people and create legal clarity on how to address it. An ICJ advisory opinion holds great legal weight and would influence States climate change ambition, by focusing on obligations to prevent harm from emissions and protect human rights. It will strengthen multilateralism and catalyse more ambitious actions by state parties to the Paris Agreement. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made it clear that there is a rapidly closing window in which the world can prevent the worst of global warming and climate change which is already hitting climate-vulnerable countries first. An advisory opinion will help accelerate climate action and clarify the obligations of states in protecting human rights from the adverse effects of climate change

The Vanuatu Government has produced a fact sheet: ‘Why an ICJ” https://sites.google.com/view/vanuatuicj/why-icj