See you in court: the rising tide of international climate litigation

What is Australia’s responsibility for low-lying neighbours like Palau? CasaDeQueso

The Pacific Island State of Palau recently announced it will seek an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), asking whether countries have a responsibility to avoid their emissions causing climate change damage elsewhere.

This will be the world’s first international climate change case and it has been a long time coming.

Many Pacific Islands are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise is predicted to eventually make some islands uninhabitable. For instance, the highest point on the island nation of Tuvalu is just 4.6 metres above sea level.

In 2002, Tuvalu threatened to sue Australia and the United States over the impacts of climate change. To date Tuvalu has not brought the threatened litigation.

Instead, Tuvalu, Palau and other Pacific Islands have focused their efforts on the international climate negotiations because the Kyoto Protocol runs out in 2012.

But their attempts (and those of other States) to secure a new international agreement with strong cuts to greenhouse gas emissions have been unsuccessful.

Tuvaluans have plenty of reasons to call for action on climate change.