Thanks to a group of university students on the Pacific island of Vanuatu, climate lawyers around the world may get some powerful extra ammunition to bring to their next court case.
The students came up with the idea of getting the world’s top court to issue an opinion on states’ legal responsibility for the climate crisis.
The government of Vanuatu backed the idea and now most of the world’s countries have too – although notably not the US, China and many other big polluters.
That means the student-initiated project should get the green light from the United Nations general assembly in the next few weeks and an International Court of Justice advisory opinion will follow.
If the court says governments do have responsibility, that’s something judges across the world will have to take seriously. Bad day to be a US government lawyer.
This week’s stories
- Finance key climate issue for new Nigerian president
- Vanuatu gathers support for UN climate justice statement
- Comment: Japan’s ‘green transformation’ would derail the energy transition in Asia
- IMF warns against ‘protectionism’ in rich world’s green subsidies
- UN sets date for loss and damage talks, risking Asian no-show
- Total escapes court censure over East African oil pipeline
- Greta Thunberg protests wind farm “violating human rights” in Norway
- South Africa tried to weaken corruption safeguards in coal phase out deal, says CEO
- Governments sworn to secrecy on ‘$20bn’ for Indonesia’s energy transition
Nigeria was not among those backing Vanuatu’s bid, but its new president Bola Tinubu is in no doubt where responsibility lies.
On the campaign trail, he described his country as a church rat, trying to avoid eating a holy communion poisoned by the big polluters.
He says he will tell the West that, unless it hands over climate finance, “we are not going to comply with your climate change”.
The West’s responsibility for causing the climate crisis is a matter of fact – but it won’t be Western finance ministers who pay the highest price for climate failure.
Sadly, it will be those Tinubu has just been elected to represent. Nigeria is already suffering flooding, drought and climate-linked armed conflict – and its only going to get worse.