An ICJ Advisory Opinion on Climate Change: Ten Questions and Answers

In recent years, the role of climate change litigation has become increasingly prominent. Thus far, most climate cases have been brought in national courts, but there is also growing interest in the role of international courts and tribunals in addressing climate change, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ), regional and human rights bodies, and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

In September 2021, Vanuatu announced at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly (UNGA) that it intended to build a coalition of states to request an advisory opinion on climate change from the ICJ. The Vanuatu initiative is supported by various grassroots youth groups, including the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change and the World Youth for Climate Justice, which argue that climate change threatens the rights of present and future generations. At the March 2022 CARICOM Conference, heads of government from the Caribbean region indicated their support for Vanuatu’s initiative, and other countries have endorsed it as well, including Australia.

Vanuatu has assembled a legal team that is currently working to craft the precise legal question to put before the ICJ and may bring its proposal before the General Assembly this October.