Legal Avenues to Fight Climate Change

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On December 15th, IPI together with the Permanent Mission of the Principality of Liechtenstein to the UN cohosted a virtual policy forum on “Legal Avenues to Fight Climate Change.”

COP26 marks a critical moment to update humanity’s plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Although a growing number of countries are establishing carbon neutrality targets and low-carbon solutions, the international community is still way off the 1.5-degree target set by the Paris Agreement. Meanwhile, the impacts of climate change are accelerating around the world – in an increasingly devastating manner. The UN Secretary-General has called for far-reaching changes, the need for bolder plans to reduce emissions and to live up to the promises made.

While efforts are underway to reach the goals set in the Paris Agreement, there is also an increasing trend to resort to legal action to address climate change. Climate litigation is on the rise at the international, regional and national levels. Currently, there is a call by some for an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the rights of present and future generations to be protected from negative impacts of climate change as well as the possibility of requesting an advisory opinion on oceans and climate change from the plenary of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). The International Law Commission (ILC) also included the topic of sea-level rise in relation to international law in its program of work and addresses possible legal effects or implications of sea-level rise in the areas law of the sea, statehood and protection of persons affected by sea-level rise. Moreover, a road for international criminal proceedings once a crime of ‘ecocide’ has been codified and included in national penal laws and possibly the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Regional as well as domestic courts are also facing an increasing number of cases on climate change leading to landmark cases – most notably the ruling of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands that the Dutch government has an obligation under the European Convention on Human Rights to protect the rights to life, private and family life from the real threat of climate change.

Opening Remarks:
H.E. Mr. Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative of the Principality of Liechtenstein to the UN

Speakers:
H.E. Mr. Odo Tevi, Permanent Representative of Vanuatu to the UN
Ms. Christina Hioureas, Chair of UN Practice, Foley Hoag
Ms. Kate Mackintosh, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law
Ms. Patricia Galvao Teles, Member of the International Law Commission

Moderator:
Dr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, IPI President and CEO