The next step in climate efforts

Source: The post is based on the article “The next step in climate efforts” published in Business Standard on 17th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Climate Change

Relevance: About the resolution adopted at the UNGA.

News: A consensus has been adopted on the UN General Assembly resolution recently. The resolution seeks advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on “the obligation of States in respect of Climate Change”.

What are some of the facts about the resolution?

The resolution was led by the Pacific Island state of Vanuatu. Later, the Core Group of 18, known as ICJA04, which includes other island states, African states, Germany and Portugal also supported it.

India was not part of this group nor was it a co-sponsor. The US has also not voted for the resolution. However, China has joined the consensus.

The resolution seeks ICJ’s legal opinion on legal consequences for states that are responsible for climate change, particularly affecting small island developing states and present and future generations.

Note: Advisory opinion from the ICJ is not legally binding on states but it carries a certain moral authority.

What is the resolution about and what are the concerns present?

The resolution focuses on the missing historical responsibility of states, which are primarily responsible for the stock of greenhouse gases already accumulated in the earth’s atmosphere.

Australia, Germany, and the rest of the European Union have spoken in support of the resolution because the idea of historical responsibility, which is a key element in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) of 1992, has been ignored.

ICJ opinion may also be used for laying the blame on countries like India whose emissions will inevitably rise in the course of their economic development, despite their ambitious efforts to limit such emissions.

However, there is no reference in the resolution to the issue of compensation for “loss and damage” from climate change.

This issue should have been highlighted at ICJ because developed countries have been staying away from their legal responsibility to compensate developing countries for their past emissions.

Therefore, India should not hesitate to make such submission to the ICJ, which represents its own views and concerns.

What can be the key elements in India’s submission?

First, India should emphasise that there is already a climate change treaty in the shape of the UNFCCC or the Rio Convention of 1992, which clearly establishes nations’ legal responsibility to take climate change action.

For ICJ, it should reaffirm the validity of the principles and provisions of the UNFCCC rather than seek to establish another legal framework.

Second, the idea of equality and equitable burden sharing must be reiterated in establishing legal commitments of states for climate change action.

Third, the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities should be reiterated. This will make the states that are responsible for the accumulation of greenhouse gases and which are responsible for global climate change to support adaptation by developing countries.

India should also highlight the ambitious measures it has adopted in addressing the challenge of climate change.

Fourth, India should point out those industralized countries which violated their legal obligations under the Kyoto Protocol and walked away from it without submitting to the penal provisions under its compliance procedure. The ICJ should hold them accountable.

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