Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders, outlined what the Advisory Opinion could mean last month at an event hosted by the PISFCC in New York:
What could this Advisory Opinion do? I think it has to be helped by the submissions, and we really need as many countries as possible [to make submissions]. We need the vulnerable countries to spell out how difficult the situation is. We also need developed countries to make the right kind of submissions, accepting the responsibility - the common but differentiated responsibility which has been weakened in recent times.
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Bula. We are Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change, and we are campaigning for an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice on climate change and human rights.
The climate crisis is an existential threat to the Pacific. For us, it is a matter of survival. The world isn't taking climate change seriously. Carbon pollution continues to rise as the window for action slowly closes upon us. Vulnerable communities who did not cause the climate crisis are already experiencing the most severe impacts of it.
By seeking the clarification from the world's highest court, we're looking for guidance from the court that would be transformational in guiding ambition, accountability and fairness in the global climate response mechanism. We demand a strong Advisory Opinion that will uphold climate justice and human rights.
The existential impacts of climate change on human lives and fundamental human rights necessitates legal clarity in the interpretation of international law, including key climate treaties, but from other legal instruments as well, such as human rights treaties and from customary international law. The ICJ will integrate these and its Opinion on climate change. As such, this will be a historic opportunity to shape the development of international law to work for us and be more potent in addressing the climate crisis, including issues such as finance and loss and damage.
As we continue in this critical decade, the world's highest court must not be silent on the biggest issue of our time. We need to protect the rights of people at the frontlines, those now and those who will come after us. And this Advisory Opinion can do this. Our hope is that governments will participate in this historic process and make their voices heard by making positive and strong submissions to the ICJ. It is time for the world's highest court to speak out on the world's biggest problem.
Vishal Prasad is the Campaign Director of the Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change, a youth-led organisation campaigning for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on climate change and human rights. He is from Suva, Fiji, and has studied international politics and law at the University of the South Pacific. He has been part of the ICJ advisory opinion movement since 2019 and is also part of the global ICJ advisory opinion movement under the World’s Youth for Climate Justice. As part of the ICJ advisory opinion campaign, he has a strong focus on securing the Pacific youth demands on the protection of the rights of current and future generations from the adverse effects of climate change.