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The young man who wants to take climate change to the Tribunal in The Hague


The young lawyer Solomon Yeo, who grew up on a Pacific island affected by the rise in sea levels, leads an initiative for the International Court of Justice to identify governments as legally responsible for the global crisis

Solomon Yeo was used to seeing floods when he was a child.

In the Solomon Islands, where he was born, as in many other tiny countries in the Pacific, natural disasters were becoming more common.

Already as an adult, he understood that he lived in one of the regions of the world most vulnerable to the consequences of the climate catastrophe, so in 2019, during his last year of Law, he organized with 26 of his classmates to search for solutions.

After four years, today they are close to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), dependent on the United Nations, ruling on who is responsible for the well-being of citizens in the face of the consequences of climate change.

With his colleagues, who were studying at the University of the South Pacific in Vanuatu, he wanted to use the law as "a vehicle to achieve radical change."

Solomon then spoke about their duty to their communities and to put his knowledge to "practical use."

The most committed students decided to adopt the name Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change, and Solomon was elected president.

Solomon Yeo intervenes in a protest act.Raul De Lima (Climate Clock)

After many hours of investigation, they concluded that an advisory opinion should be sought from the ICJ.

The aim of the students is for the highest body of international justice, based in The Hague, to rule on the obligations of States in the face of the threat of climate change.

“This makes it clear who is legally responsible for this problem,” Solomon explains.

Each country may interpret an advisory opinion differently, but it serves as a legal basis for future political negotiations between countries on climate matters.

The activists sent a proposal to the governments that make up the Pacific Islands Forum and requested an appointment with the Vanuatu environment minister.

“To our surprise, they showed interest.

Two months later they told us that they would take our proposal to the Forum,” Solomon says by phone from New York.

Gaining support from the region was just a first step.

The only way to go to the ICJ is for 97 of the 193 members to vote yes to the initiative.

Solomon Yeo participates in a protest act in front of the Statue of Liberty in New YorkStephanie Keith (Greenpeace)

"We understood that to reach the UN we needed support."

So Solomon traveled to COP25 that was being held in Madrid at the end of 2019 to establish alliances with other activists.

“Although many thought our mission was too bureaucratic, there were others who were interested.”

After months of “calls, meetings and all-nighters”, his group grew and became World's Youth for Climate Justice (WYCJ).

Now Solomon is closer than ever to fulfilling his goal.

After COP27 in Sharm el Sheikh (Egypt), Vanuatu presented the draft of the motion to the UN.

A consultation process was opened so that the States could propose modifications and then they would go to the vote.

There are already more than 70 countries that have expressed their support and Solomon points out that there has been “overwhelming” support from developing countries.

The lawyer is now 27 years old and lives in New York to “campaign in civil society”.

With his colleagues, he agreed that, as leader, he should be in the place where the debate is taking place.

At WYCJ he envisions the vote in the UN General Assembly to take place in the first months of 2023 and Solomon will be there to see the culmination of his effort.

For the young activist, this is "a debt" to his islands.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-02-13

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