- Recently, U.N. asked the International Court of Justice to give an ‘advisory opinion’ on whether countries have legal obligations to protect people from climate extremities
- An advisory opinion is non-binding legal advice provided to the United Nations or a specialised agency by the International Court of Justice, in accordance with Article 96 of the UN Charter.
- The General Assembly and the Security Council may request advisory opinions on “any legal matter”.
- Other organs and the specialised agencies may request advisory opinions on “legal questions arising within the scope of their activities”
- The draft resolution asks the ICJ to deliberate on two questions:
- What are the obligations of states under international law to ensure the protection of the climate system for present and future generations?
- What are the legal consequences under these obligations for states where they, by their acts and omissions, have caused significant harm to the climate system, particularly for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and for people who are harmed.
- The resolution refers to several international protocols including the Paris Agreement (2015), the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and even the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Significance of the resolution
- A legal opinion from the ICJ, the highest global court recognised by all 193 UN members, is expected to strengthen the efforts under the UNFCCC to ensure all countries work towards mitigating climate change and global warming to the suggested 1.5-2°C limit.
- The Judgement could precipitate movement on contentious issues such as climate reparations by the developed world, legal culpability for countries that don’t achieve their NDC promises, and climate support to the most vulnerable parts of the world battling the effects of global warming.
- ICJ’s Legal opinion is more inclusive than previous two attempts at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) .
Indian Stand :
- Although India is generally supportive of the need for climate justice, and holding the developed world accountable for global warming.India is concerned whether “launching a judicial process” was the best way to reach “shared goals”.
- As PARIS AGREEMENT is a landmark shift towards a “bottom-up” approach, where states themselves determine their ability to mitigate climate change.India is less optimistic about any attempt to impose an opinion in a “top-down” manner