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Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance

Founding Director of C-EENRG Professor Jorge Viñuales has advised The Republic of Vanuatu in their historic bid requesting the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to give an advisory opinion on climate change under international law.

105 countries co-sponsored the plan, including Canada, Australia, and the UK, alongside other Pacific nations like Kiribati and the Marshall Islands. Pacific islands are highly threatened by the impacts of climate change. Rising sea levels alongside tropical cyclones pose severe threats to all those who live on the low-lying land, including the 350,000 people who live on the Vanuatuan archipelago.

Professor Viñuales has been acting as counsel for Vanuatu over the last two years. He advised on the overall strategy and legal aspects of the initiative, particularly on the specific language of the Draft Resolution. The proposal began as a class exercise by environmental law students at Fiji’s University of the South Pacific campus, who put the idea to the Vanuatuan Foreign Ministry, which in turn gathered support from other countries and has now built an international coalition.

Under the proposal, the ICJ would be required to offer an interpretation of which human rights and environmental laws dictate the responsibility of states to act upon the causes and consequences of climate change. Any opinion by the Court would not be legally binding, but would help to establish a legal precedent. This precedent could inform climate lawsuits around the world, and also strengthen the position of climate-threatened countries during international negotiations.

Find out more about the Vanuatu ICJ Initiative.

Read the final text of the co-sponsored Draft Resolution.