On March 29, 2023, the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the resolution A/77/L.58, requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the obligations of States with respect to climate change. The resolution was adopted by consensus. This initiative was largely led by the Government of Vanuatu, which worked with other countries to prepare a draft resolution through internal negotiations and several rounds of informal consultations with the wider UN membership.
The request for an advisory opinion acknowledges that “climate change is an unprecedented challenge of civilizational proportions and that the well-being of present and future generations of humankind depends on our immediate and urgent response to it”. The UNGA resolution also takes note of the scientific consensus expressed, inter alia, in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In particular, the UNGA underscores that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are “the dominant cause of the global warming observed since the mid-20th century” and that human-induced climate change “has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people.”
In this context, the UNGA recalls the importance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement “as expressions of the determination to address decisively the threat posed by climate change”. The resolution also underscores the importance of implementing these treaties, particularly in light of the significant gap between States’ current nationally determined contributions and the emission reductions required to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, as well as the gap between current levels of adaptation and the levels needed to respond to the adverse effects of climate change.
Therefore, in accordance with Article 96 of the Charter of the United Nations, the UNGA requests the ICJ to render an advisory opinion on the following questions:
“Having particular regard to the Charter of the United Nations, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Paris Agreement, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the duty of due diligence, the rights recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the principle of prevention of significant harm to the environment and the duty to protect and preserve the marine environment,
(a) What are the obligations of States under international law to ensure the protection of the climate system and other parts of the environment from anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases for States and for present and future generations;
(b) What are the legal consequences under these obligations for States where they, by their acts and omissions, have caused significant harm to the climate system and other parts of the environment, with respect to:
(i) States, including, in particular, small island developing States, which due to their geographical circumstances and level of development, are injured or specially affected by or are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change?
(ii) Peoples and individuals of the present and future generations affected by the adverse effects of climate change?”
The UN Secretariat will communicate the resolution to the ICJ in the following weeks.
|03/01/2023||Not Available||Download||UNGA Resolution requesting the advisory opinion|
|04/19/2023||Press Release||Download||ICJ Press Release|
|04/20/2023||Order||Download||Order of Apr. 20, 2023 (fixing deadlines for submission of written statements and comments by the UN and its Member States)|
|04/15/2023||Press Release||Download||ICJ Press Release|