UN adopts landmark resolution on climate

Published March 30, 2023
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses to delegates during a general assembly to vote on whether to ask top global court to issue opinion on climate responsibility at United Nations Headquarters in New York City, US on March 29, 2023.  — Reuters
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses to delegates during a general assembly to vote on whether to ask top global court to issue opinion on climate responsibility at United Nations Headquarters in New York City, US on March 29, 2023. — Reuters

UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly on Wednesday adopted by consensus and to cheer a resolution calling for the world body’s top court to outline legal obligations related to climate change.

Pushed for years by Vanuatu and Pacific islander youth, the measure asks the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to lay out nations’ obligations for protecting Earth’s climate, and the legal consequences they face if they don’t.

“Together, you are making history,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, emphasising that even if non-binding, an opinion from the International Court of Justice “would assist the General Assembly, the UN and member states to take the bolder and stronger climate action that our world so desperately needs”.

Ultimately co-sponsored by more than 130 member states, the resolution had been widely expected to be approved.

The resolution asks the ICJ to clarify the “obligations of states under international law to ensure the protection of the climate system”.

Its adoption sends “a loud and clear message not only around the world, but far into the future,” Vanuatu’s PM Ishmael Kalsakau told the assembly.

A week ago, the UN’s panel of climate experts (IPCC) warned that global average temperatures could reach 1.5C above the pre-industrial era by as early as 2030-2035, underlining the need for drastic action this decade.

While nations have no legal obligation under the 2015 Paris Agreement to meet emission reduction targets, backers of the new climate resolution hope other instruments could offer some pathways for enforcement.

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2023

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