Rethinking Climate Change: Towards an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice

On February 2, Johnson Toribiong, president of Palau and Tillman Thomas, prime minister of Grenada hosted a diplomatic reception at the law school to build support for a UN General Assembly resolution reqesting International Court of Justice advisory opinion on the legal responsibility of countries for climate change under international law. An ICJ advisory opinion may be requested by a simple majority of UN members. This effort by Palau and Grenada is in conjunction with a number of other small island countries, who are concerned about the impact of rising sea levels that are resulting from climate change.

President of Palau Johnson Toribiong

“The truth is that nothing we or other Pacific countries do will stem the rising tides or the flood of global emissions. We need everyone to buy in or it won’t work. An ICJ advisory opinion would give us the guidance we need on what all States must do,“ said President Toribiong. “I am pleased that deliberations on a possible resolution have begun here in New York. But there is a long way to go.”

The UN General Assembly resolution is expected to be introduced in the autumn. Attending the reception along with the President and Prime Minister were their Ambassadors to the UN, Stuart Beck (of Palau) and Dessima Williams (of Grenada). They were joined by nearly 100 other UN Ambassadors, Deputy Permanent Representatives and legal advisors.

NYU law students Julian Arato and Ben Heath with Palauan Ambassador to the UN, Stuart Beck and President Toribiong

Two NYU law students and IILJ scholars, Julian Arato (’11, LL.M.’12) and Ben Heath (’11, LL.M.’12) have been assisting the Mission of Palau by providing legal advice on the issue. Since the Mission of Palau was opened in 2004, NYU law students have provided legal assistance on a number of issues, including international environmental law and law of the sea.