Pacific to seek deferment of UN vote on Climate Justice

PISFCC sailed down the New York East River to call for climate justice, 20 September 2022

Vanuatu and its regional coalition partners will be seeking a deferral of the vote on the climate justice initiative to the end of 2022, to allow more time to lobby for a simple majority vote.

This was conveyed by the Head of State, Nikenike Vurobaravu, who is representing Vanuatu at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, USA. He left for the UN meeting Monday.

He explained after a solidarity march last Friday that the request for more time to lobby is essential to gain more political support from other UN states, to meet the required UN simple majority vote.

“According to the draft plan, the issue of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will be brought up in the UN agenda on October 27. Vanuatu and its coalition partners in the region will be seeking a deferment on the vote till the end of the year, at that time,” he said.

“We will ask for a deferment to allow us to do more consultation.

“This deferment is important because if we convert political support in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, we believe we will come closer to the required simple majority vote. But to be sure, we need to lobby more hard.”

He said a simple majority vote requires a vote from half of the UN members.

Apart from PIF, the movement has received support from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), African and the Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, and thousands of civil society groups.

“Once we gain support from a simple majority vote, the ICJ will set up a special panel to start the works of producing an advisory opinion…I hope Vanuatu could also send its young people, women, and people with disabilities demanding climate justice to talk to the judges of the panel about the impacts of climate change facing them,” said the President.

Endorsed by the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), Vanuatu is leading the Pacific in this global climate justice campaign pushing for a climate change advisory opinion from the UN’s highest court, the ICJ, on responsibilities for climate change under international law.

A legal statement from ICJ will not win reparations for climate victims but will provide clarity on the obligations of major emitters to protect the rights of present and future generations against climate change harm. The proposal must have strong support from other alliances or countries to pass a UN General Assembly resolution to forward the matter to the ICJ.

As part of exploring the UN structure and voting processes, President Vurobaravu and Fiji’s Prime Minister and Chair of PIF, Frank Bainimarama, will be meeting world leaders including the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to decide on a vote timeline.

President Vurobaravu said they are expected to also meet the USA President and his Climate Change Advisor in Washington DC.

He stressed that climate change is a crisis of our time and is no longer up for debate.

“Climate change is a serious single threat to our people’s security, well-being, and livelihoods.

“This statement was made by the Vanuatu Government in a Forum meeting, endorsed by Forum Leaders, and incorporated into the Boe Declaration,” he stressed.

“This statement indicates that we the people in the Pacific Blue Continent and Vanuatu are facing an existential threat from climate change.

“We started works for negotiating a fair climate justice for the world since the Rio Convention 30 years ago. Unfortunately, there is no significant movement and today some of us are still disappointed, as powerful countries continue to promote the fossil fuel industry.

“This makes us feel we don’t make any progress at all with our Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which are not effective because the greenhouse emissions remain high. We feel that we need a different pathway because the phase of achievement is slow.

“However, signs are very clear. If we do not commit to reducing emissions, we will not succeed in meeting the Paris Agreement of keeping global temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Indications now are showing we may not succeed by 2035.

“If we do not succeed, the consequences will be frightening to talk about.”

The proposal to seek advisory opinion was initiated by Pacific youth activists known as the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change. It started when they were law students at the USP Emalus Campus in Port Vila.

The proposal was noted positively by the 2019 Pacific Island Forum Leaders Meeting, which led to the Vanuatu Government proactively working on building a global coalition around the initiative.