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Quest for court climate change ruling continues

Answers to solve climate change challenges and hold the biggest emitters accountable are being sought through the International Court of Justice or ICJ initiative.

Headed by the Vanuatu Government campaign with the backing of Pacific Students Fighting Climate Change (PIFSCC), campaigners are currently in New York and are hoping to garner support at the United Nations General Assembly 77th session, next month.

If successful, the world’s biggest emitters could be taken to task and policies to deal with climate change could come as court orders.

But to do this, international support is needed and it is hoped that it will come through campaigning and when Vanuatu presents this at the United Nations General Assembly.

Three years ago, 27 law students from the University of the South Pacific’s Emalus campus in Vanuatu, pursued the most ambitious voyage of leveraging the climate crisis.

They drafted a paper to seek justice from the International Court of Justice to hold accountable the biggest emitters in the world. The PIFSCC campaign was born and now it is a reality.

Forum Economic Ministers Meeting 2022, at Warwick Hotel, Port Vila, Vanuatu. Picture: PIFS

After petitioning with Pacific nations to get an endorsement at national and regional level, Vanuatu chose to endorse this. It was presented to the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum and they have agreed to support this as well.

At the Pacific Islands Forum Economic Ministers Meeting in Port Vila Deputy Prime Minister, Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau shared that Vanuatu is seeing unprecedented levels of support for their ICJ initiative.

“An Advisory Opinion from the ICJ carries great legal weight and moral authority, although it is not legally binding.  And to be clear, the International Court of Justice will not be asked to make any new laws or require new obligations, rather we will ask for its clarifying opinion on climate protections within existing International Laws,” he said.

“In practice, an Advisory Opinion from the ICJ may inspire States to cease subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and invest in clean jobs in the renewables sector as well as in mitigation projects abroad that countries in the Pacific want.”

University of Cambridge Law Professor Jorge Vinuales said during a conference that the advisory opinion can certainly be relied upon.

PISFCC campaigner Vishal Kumar. Picture: Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change Twitter

“It is true that the document as such is not binding on any state but the law that is explained and stated there is binding. And the advisory opinion can be realized by a legislator at the level of the state at the national level or at the municipal level.

Speaking from New York, campaigner Vishal Kumar said although the members of PIF endorsed the campaign in July, it was not enough.

“The campaign will need to go beyond the Pacific and the campaigners will be using the same approach. We will need to gather campaigners from Europe, Caribbean, Latin America, and Asia and this is how we have formed the global youth network(GUN) which is called the World’s Youth for Climate Justice.

“Recently the organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States have expressed their support as well, which is made up of 79 countries and that is a plus. We formed an alliance of civil society organisations like Greenpeace Australia, Pacific, Amnesty International, Oxfam and 350.0rg.

“Right now our goal is to get the majority vote at the UNGA and these CSOs are helping us work towards that,” Kumar said.

On International Youth Day PISFCC stood in solidarity with Fridays for Future climate activists on the ICJAO campaign. Picture: PISFCC Twitter

The PIFSCC campaign has four chapters which include Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu and are committed to educating and pushing for Pacific youth voices in the fight against climate change.

University of Fiji Vice Chancellor Professor Shaista Shameem said we should take every opportunity to ensure that the climate disaster taking the world can be stopped or slowed down.

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“I congratulate the PIFSCC for taking the initiative to take this crime against humanity and the environment to the highest international court,” said Prof Shameem.

“Young people were decisive in stopping the Vietnam war and halting nuclear testing in the Pacific when I was a student.”

“Young people are very powerful when they get organized and this campaign is as important as it gets. It means saving the planet.”

University of Fiji Vice Chancellor Professor Shaista Shameem said we should take every opportunity to ensure that the climate disaster taking the world can be stopped or slowed down. Picture: University of Fiji

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