Vanuatu will ask the International court of justice for an advisory opinion on the rights of present and future generations to be protected from climate change.
With a population of about 280,000 people spread across roughly 80 islands, Vanuatu is among more than a dozen Pacific island nations facing rising sea levels and more regular storms that can wipe out much of their economies.
In a statement on Saturday, Vanuatu’s government said it “recognises that current levels of action and support for vulnerable developing countries within multilateral mechanisms are insufficient”.
It comes ahead of the UN Cop26 climate summit in November.
Ahead of the summit, Vanuatu will expand “its diplomacy and advocacy” by forming a coalition with fellow Pacific Islands and other vulnerable nations to push the initiative.
In a speech to the UN general assembly on Sunday, Vanuatu prime minister Bob Loughman repeated the call for comprehensive global action on climate change.
“The dire consequences of climate change can no longer be ignored, and the science linking climate change to past and present emissions of greenhouse gases is now beyond question. Climate change is driving sea level rise, desertification, disease redistribution, floods, unprecedented ‘heat domes’, cyclones, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events.”
Last year, a Category 5 cyclone devastated the northern part of Vanuatu, an area already struggling with the impact of Covid-19.
Loughman said the issues are increasingly beyond the control of individual national governments and international cooperation is therefore essential for Vanuatu and other small island developing states to combat the threat of climate change.
International court of justice advisory opinions are not binding, but it is hoped an opinion would assist with climate litigation cases around the world.
Vishal Prasad, a campaigner at Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change, told the Guardian that Vanuatu’s move to obtain an advisory opinion form the court is a “catalyst’ to bolster and advance progress in the climate fight.
“The youth is strongly pushing for an advisory opinion that looks at … what the obligations of states are in protecting the right of current and future generations from the adverse effects of climate change,” he said.
“This is a first milestone achievement for [our] campaign going ahead. What this means is that it now gives extra strength to the youth campaign, that there is now a state that is willing to take this forward … we have now backing and support from a state,” Prasad added.