The Republic of Vanuatu

Pursuing an Advisory Opinion on Climate Change
from the International Court of Justice

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).

Climate-induced and extreme weather events are predicted to increase in the years to come and threaten the lives and livelihoods of small island developing States and other climate vulnerable countries around the world. Vanuatu, like other climate vulnerable States, is on the frontlines of the climate crisis, having experienced massively destructive cyclones, and being exposed to slow onset events, such as sea level rise, threatening its very existence.

Recognising the urgency of the crisis for the Pacific region, grassroots efforts and youth initiatives began a movement advocating for an ICJ Advisory Opinion to set out with clarity the obligations of States under international law to protect the rights of present and future generations against the adverse effects of climate change. In pursuing an ICJ Advisory Opinion, Vanuatu is responding to this grassroots movement – now embodied in the Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change and World Youth for Climate Justice – and listening to the calls of the citizens of Vanuatu and the wider region. To ensure that the initiative is successful, Vanuatu has solicited the advice of some of the world’s most renowned international legal experts. 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.

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.