In the movements for the climate, we are constantly asked what the most effective approaches and strategies can be to create awareness of environmental issues and generate change: the street protests of Fridays For Future, the non-violent civil disobedience of Extinction Rebellion, the flashes mob by Legambiente, the direct actions of Greenpeace or the last generation performative ones.
Recently, in the hope of rousing governments from inaction, a new one has been added: citizens and associations have begun to take legal steps, suing the institutions.
After the victories in the trials in Holland, France and Germany, which was forced to revise the entire climate law following a ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court, the outcome of the “Universal Judgment” lawsuit in Italy is now awaited, brought by 203 applicants, and those to the European Court of Human Rights.
It is in this context, exactly 10 days after the publication of the last IPCC report of the decade, that a historic resolution on climate justice adopted by the United Nations General Assembly is inserted in a disruptive way.
It all started from the initiative of a student assembly of the law faculty of the University of Fiji, which Vanuatu decided to present to the General Assembly and accompany in a long and painstaking diplomatic work that led to the consolidation of a majority of one hundred countries backing the proposal even before the start of official work at the end of March in New York.
In essence, the UN resolution asks its highest judicial body to establish the obligations of nations in policies to combat the climate crisis and the legal consequences they face if they do not adopt them.
According to Ishmael Kalsakau, Prime Minister of Vanuatu, “it is the beginning of a new era in multilateral climate cooperation, an era that focuses more on respecting international law and which places human rights and intergenerational equity at the forefront in the climate decision-making process.
The opinion of the International Court of Justice in The Hague will not be binding, but could push governments to take bolder decisions and make the courts increasingly a battleground if this does not happen.
Despite their small surface area and population, the island states of the Pacific on the front line in the face of the consequences of the climate emergency demonstrate once again that they want and can be protagonists of multilateral cooperation processes: in 2021 the Foreign Minister of Tuvalu had shaken the Glasgow COP26 plenary, intervening at a distance with sea water up to his knees, and that of his respective Vanuatu plenary had been decisive in the process that brought the Loss&Damage theme up to the final document of the Sharm el-Sheikh COP27 .
These two countries have also launched a non-proliferation treaty for fossil fuels, which has obtained the support of the WHO, the European Parliament, the Vatican and two Italian cities: Pontassieve and Turin.
From Vanuatu to Italy, sea levels are rising and pressure from the international community to react.