Vanuatu’s Prime Minister (PM), Ishmael Kalsakau, has described the adoption of the climate justice resolution at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) by consensus, as a win of epic proportions.
The resolution drafted by 18 countries and led by Vanuatu seeks the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to deliver an opinion on climate change and the legal consequences countries face for harming the environment.
Applause echoed in the UNGA Hall as the adoption was gavelled. Many speakers hailed the move as a milestone in their struggle for climate justice. Supported by over 120 countries, the resolution’s adoption was expected.
“Today (yesterday) we have witnessed a win for climate justice of epic proportions,” PM Kalsakau said when announcing the adoption.
“Vanuatu sees the historic resolution as the beginning of a new era in multilateral climate cooperation, one that is more fully focused on upholding the rule of international law and an era that places human rights and intergenerational equity at the forefront of climate decision-making.
“This celebration is a win for the rule of law, for protecting human rights, for improving multilateral climate cooperation, for climate justice and for acting with ambition to address the planetary climate crisis.
“The road ahead is long, and we need countries to approach it with purpose. I hope all countries will make robust and progressive submissions so that the ICJ can make its Advisory Opinion based on the best legal interpreters on the planet. All states have a role to play.”
PM Kalsakau told the UNGA that this initiative is not a silver bullet, but it can make an important contribution to climate action, including by catalyzing much higher ambition under the Paris Agreement.
“The world is at a crossroads and we, as representatives of the international community, have an obligation to take urgent action to protect the planet,” the PM said.
“This resolution and the advisory opinion it seeks will have a powerful and positive impact on how we address climate change and ultimately protect the present and future generations. Together, we will send a loud and clear message, not only around the world but also far into the future. That on this very day, the peoples of the United Nations, acting through their governments, decided to leave aside differences and work together to tackle the defining challenge of our times, climate change.”
UN Secretary General (SG) António Guterres said advisory opinions from ICJ would assist the General Assembly, the UN and member states to take bolder and stronger climate action that the world so desperately needs.
“It could also guide the actions and conduct of states in their relations with each other, as well as towards their own citizens. This is essential,” he said.
“Climate justice is both a moral imperative and a prerequisite for effective global climate action. The climate crisis can only be overcome through cooperation-between peoples, cultures, nations, generations.”
Guterres stressed that now is the critical time for climate action.
“Those that contributed least to the climate crisis are already facing both climate hell and high levels of sea waters. For some countries, climate threats are a death sentence. Indeed, it is the initiative of those countries, joined by so many others – along with the efforts of young people all over the world – that brings us together. Together, you are making history,” he said.
Vanuatu was ravaged by two consecutive cyclones early this month before tabling the resolution at the UNGA. A carbon-negative country and yet one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change.
PM Kalsakau said the UNGA ruling shows that the world stands with Vanuatu. The fact that a small nation like Vanuatu was able to successfully spearhead a transformative outcome speaks to the incredible support from all corners of the globe, he said.
PM Kalsakau commended the active engagement and support of the 18 core countries for drafting the resolution, all nations that co-sponsor the resolution, the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) leaders, the Caribbean Community and the Organisation of the African Caribbean and Pacific States as early champions of the initiative for endorsing it against all odds, the civil society from across the Pacific and the world for standing beside Vanuatu in the campaign, the Pacific law students who first lobbied the Vanuatu Government to take up the fight and the Vanuatu leaders who heeded this call.
The idea for obtaining an ICJ Advisory Opinion began with the law students at the University of the South Pacific (USP) Emalus Campus, who persuaded Pacific Island leaders to take the issue to the UN. The government of Vanuatu launched its campaign in September 2021, and through careful diplomacy and with the support of a core group of countries and youth-led organizations, secured the introduction and adoption of the resolution.
Campaign Director of the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change (PSIFCC), Solomon Yeo, thanked the people and governments of Vanuatu and the Pacific for supporting the initiative since the beginning.
PISFCC has been passionately campaigning for the ICJ Advisory Opinion since it was taken up by the Vanuatu Government and endorsed by PIF.
Yeo said: “This initiative could not reach this stage without the support of citizens, the youth and civil society from across the Pacific giving their governments confidence to safeguard their rights and their future.
“On behalf of the PISFCC and the Youth for Climate Justice, we want to say thank you to the people and government of Vanuatu for providing support from the beginning, since launching the campaign in Port Vila. We hope this initiative will being climate justice to the people of Vanuatu and the Pacific.”
SOURCE: VANUATU DAILY POST