It is a first step that is not clear where it can end, but the United Nations has opened a door this Wednesday to some hypothetical claims before the International Court of Justice for the impacts of climate change.
In a resolution approved by the UN General Assembly, the countries have asked this body to clarify precisely how far the responsibilities of nations can go in a crisis that hits the most vulnerable countries especially, which are those with the fewest resources. to defend themselves against the consequences of a warming of which they are not the main cause.
The resolution has been promoted by Vanuatu, a small Pacific island state located on the front lines of climate change and whose survival is at stake.
And it was approved this Wednesday in the UN Assembly after more than four years of work and negotiations that have led to the document reaching that vote with the explicit support of 121 countries.
The International Court is the main judicial body of the UN and is in charge of resolving disputes between States.
In addition, it also issues reports on issues raised by the different United Nations bodies.
That is precisely what the Assembly has done today: it has asked you about the responsibilities of the climate crisis.
"Advisory opinions can provide much-needed clarification on existing international legal obligations," António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, summed up before the vote.
That opinion will also help the UN and countries "to take bolder and stronger climate action that our world so desperately needs," he added.
The great scientific review on the climate crisis: "The window to ensure a habitable future closes"
In the document approved in the UN Assembly, answers to two questions are requested.
The first: “what are the obligations that States have under international law to guarantee the protection of the climate system and other elements of the environment against anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases in favor of States and generations present and future?
The second refers to "what are the legal consequences derived from these obligations for States that, by their acts and omissions, have caused significant damage to the climate system and other elements of the environment, with respect" to other countries.
With these two questions, the issue of climate justice is fully addressed, something like the responsibilities that nations have for not urgently cutting greenhouse gas emissions despite the warnings that science has been issuing for decades. .
The IPCC, the Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change, completed its sixth review of the scientific literature last week (the fifth dated from 2014) and the conclusions were clear.
The experts explained that climate change is "a threat to human well-being and the health of the planet" and the "window of opportunity" that humanity has to ensure "a livable and sustainable future for all" is "quickly closing."
The scientists warned that this crisis "has caused widespread adverse impacts and loss and damage" on humans and nature.
And they called for quick and deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions to prevent the most catastrophic warming.
The report was a warning to all mankind.
But it also addressed the existing inequality with respect to the main causes of the problem and the main victims.
“Vulnerable communities that have historically contributed the least to current climate change are disproportionately affected,” the IPCC summarized.
“Between 3,300 and 3,600 million people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change,” it added.
This vulnerability not only depends on the geographical area, but also on the socioeconomic situation that makes populations with fewer resources more fragile in the face of extremes.
“Increased extreme weather and climate events have exposed millions of people to acute food insecurity and reduced water security,” the study warned.
"For some countries, climate threats are a death sentence," Guterres said on Wednesday, who has highlighted the "enormous importance" of the pronouncement of the International Court that is now expected.
In his opinion, these rulings "may have a long-lasting impact on the international legal order."
Ishmael Kalsakau, Prime Minister of Vanuatu, has explained that the response offered by the International Court "is not legally binding", but it will mark an international "constructive path".
"It will have a powerful positive impact in the fight against climate change," he also added before the vote.
After years of procrastination – countries have not faced emissions cuts for years despite warnings – climate justice is gaining more and more weight on the international agenda.
At the last climate summit, held in the Egyptian city of Sharm el Sheikh, the least developed nations pressured the richest states to achieve the establishment of a fund so that the most vulnerable countries can deal with the losses and damages it generates. and will cause climate change.
“Bittering climate injustice fuels divisions and threatens to paralyze global climate action,” Guterres warned on Wednesday.
Because, in addition to climate justice, commitments to cut greenhouse gases are needed from everyone: from developed countries —those historically responsible for the problem— and from emerging nations, such as China, India or Brazil, which are now becoming the main emitters.
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