Photo: Retrieved from nature.com
Excerpt from nature.com
On 29 March, I stayed up until 1 a.m., for good reason. From Sydney, Australia, where I am studying law, I watched live coverage of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City. More than 130 nations co-sponsored a resolution to put a case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on countries’ legal obligations to combat climate change. For the first time, the world’s highest court will rule on legal consequences for nations that are damaging the climate “by their acts and omissions”. The clout of the ICJ’s opinion could drive countries to strengthen their climate plans, and can be cited in domestic legal cases, although it is not legally binding.
As president of the advocacy group Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change, I was ecstatic. The adoption of the resolution is a huge moment — the culmination of four years of hard work and dedication from us and our partners, including the government of Vanuatu and our umbrella organization, World’s Youth for Climate Justice. This is a great step for climate justice and the rights of future generations. The adoption of the resolution surpassed our wildest dreams.
Our journey began in a classroom in Vanuatu at the University of the South Pacific School of Law and Social Science: 27 law students from eight Pacific Island countries banded together when our professor challenged us to research the most progressive legal pathways to address climate change and to propose one at the 2019 Pacific Island Leaders Forum Meeting in Tuvalu. We chose to agitate for an ICJ ruling because it was the most ambitious action on our list. And in the face of an existential threat to our people, ambition is what we need.