Why Vanuatu is Leading the Action Against Climate Change #COP27 #VIS2022

Ecocide is the result of human action on the environment causing the destruction of that environment. A growing global network of lawyers, diplomats, and across all sectors of civil society, are working towards making ecocide an international crime.

In November 2020, the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide was convened by the Stop Ecocide Foundation on the request of interested parliamentarians from the governing parties in Sweden. The Independent Expert Panel’s groundbreaking drafting work was completed in June 2021.

Ecocide Law
sea landscape beach sand
Photo by Alex Arcuri on

Leading the international battle on a legal means to hold countries to account and to get them to take action against climate change is The Republic of Vanuatu.

Vanuatu became an independent nation in 1980. It is a chain of  islands 500 miles (800 km) west of Fiji and 1,100 miles (1,770 km) east of Australia. It was colonised by both Britain and France but today the name of the independent republic Vanuatu means “Our Land Forever”.

Along with 80 other nations and states, Vanuatu, is calling for a non-binding Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice to gain clarity how existing International Laws can be applied to strengthen action on climate change, protect people and the environment and save the Paris Agreement.

They want the International Court of Justice to provide an advisory opinion on the obligations of States under international law to protect the rights of present and future generations against the adverse effects of climate change.

It is nations like Vanuatu that are feeling the huge impact of climate change already. With COP27 about to take place in November 2022 it is time the ‘Big’ nations of the world took some real action to limit the catastrophe unfolding for our planet.

COP27 will take place in the city of Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. In his welcome message to COP27 President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said:

“The science is there and clearly shows the urgency with which we must act regarding rapidly reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, taking necessary steps to assist those in need of support to adapt to the negative impacts of climate change, and finding the appropriate formula that would ensure the availability of requisite means of implementation that are indispensable for developing countries in making their contributions to this global effort, especially in the midst of the successive international crises, including the ongoing food security crisis exacerbated by climate change, desertification and water scarcity, especially in Africa that suffers the most impacts.

“I deeply believe that COP27 is an opportunity to showcase unity against an existential threat that we can only overcome through concerted action and effective implementation. As incoming Presidency Egypt will spare no effort to ensure that COP27 becomes the moment when the world moved from negotiation to implementation and where words were translated to actions, and where we collectively embarked on a path towards sustainability, a just transition and eventually a greener future for coming generations.”

A report by the UN Climate Change Secretariat highlighted “the vital importance of the ocean for livelihoods and biodiversity and as a fundamental component of the climate system, underscoring the need for greater ocean-related climate action at COP27.”

The Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue Report lays out 10 key messages for governments to consider in the lead up to COP27 which set out opportunities for greater ambition and action for ocean climate action at the national and international level.

Key Messages:

  1. We must protect our ocean AND value its potential as a place for sustainable climate solutions and action.
  2. Ocean-based measures offer significant mitigation (cutting greenhouse gas emissions) and adaptation (building resilience to climate change) options.
  3. The ocean offers a space for integrated solutions that can be reflected in national climate policies and strategies.
  4. Marine technology and marine and coastal nature-based solutions should be integrated to ensure that action is more robust, comprehensive and cost-effective than when using either solution alone.
  5. We must use, improve and integrate the latest available ocean science and other knowledge systems.
  6. A whole of society approach is needed for ocean – climate action, including to address governance aspects.
  7. Funding for ocean-climate action needs to increase and access to funding must be supported
  8. Strengthened finance and other support, including capacity building, must embrace complexity to provide innovative and multidisciplinary solutions.
  9. A framework for collaborative efforts across UN Processes would increase institutional support for ocean-climate action.
  10. Future ocean and climate change dialogues should focus on distinct topics to deep-dive into specific solutions that strategically support and strengthen ocean-climate action at national and international level and under the UNFCCC process.

It is extremely difficult to remain positive that COP27 will achieve any real action by the world’s largest countries as leaders jet into Sharm El-Sheikh, many on private planes and are driven around in huge gas guzzling vehicles.

At the height of the Covid 2020 lockdown, political leaders, locally, nationally and internationally, pledged to do things differently, whilst jetting into the previous COP26 in Glasgow – again many in private planes. The pledges have melted away. Action is either non-existent or too slow. And that is why nations like Vanuatu are taking the lead and pursuing a campaign in the International Court of Justice at the United Nations.

In a recent high level briefing at the Virtual Island Summit 2022, ICC&ICJ: Powerful and practical legal tools in pursuit of climate justice, hosted by Island Innovation, the key note speaker was the Hon. Bakoa Kaltongga from the Vanuatu Government. This informative session laid out the differences between the two legal approaches 1. from the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Ecocide or 2. an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The ICJ approach is, according to the campaigners in Vanuatu, the best chance to achieve change. The ICJ would be asked to make their advice known based on existing international law.

Kaltongga said that climate change is ‘the biggest risk to our children and to their children and we are asking for your support.”

Fiona Grahame

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