Promoting Climate Justice through International Law: Climate Litigation & Climate Advisory Opinions
On 1 February 2023, the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) and the Institute of Small and Micro States co-organised a webinar on 'Promoting Climate Justice through International Law: Climate Litigation & Climate Advisory Opinions'. The event was a follow-up to the BIICL web series on 'Rising Sea Levels: Promoting Climate Justice through International Law' (3-24 March 2021). The series explored rising sea levels as a global problem of shared concern and the legal challenges it presents from the perspective of international law and climate justice.
In September 2022, in a landmark decision, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that Australia's failure to adequately protect indigenous Torres Islanders against adverse impacts of climate change violated their rights to enjoy their culture and be free from arbitrary interferences with their private life, family and home. In December 2022, the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law ('the Commission') requested the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) to render an advisory opinion on issues pertaining to climate change and environmental protection in the oceans, including ocean warming and sea level rise, and ocean acidification. Meanwhile, a core group of 16 states led by Vanuatu are petitioning the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on climate change as it specifically affects small island developing states and other developing nations particularly exposed to the adverse effects of climate change. A draft question is currently in the process of being finalised for voting.
The event aimed to shed light on recent developments in the field of climate law & justice and discuss their legal ramifications. As such, the event sought to address several key questions: What is the legal significance of recent advisory opinion initiatives to seek redress for the most vulnerable nations? What is the jurisdiction of ITLOS and the ICJ in administering or influencing climate justice through advisory opinions? What interests other states might have in supporting these initiatives? What should we expect going forward?
The event was convened by Dr Constantinos Yiallourides, Research Leader in Law of the Sea and Kristin Hausler, Dorset Senior Fellow and Director of the Centre for International Law.
The present report summarises the conversation and consolidates some of the key points covered in the webinar held on 1 February 2023. The panel discussion was chaired by Dr Nicole Pierce, Deputy-Director, Institute of Small and Micro-Nations. Speakers: Dr Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh, University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Law; Monica Feria-Tinta, Barrister, Twenty Essex; and, Nicola Peart, Barrister, Senior Associate, Three Crowns LLP.