Article | 22 Mar, 2024

IUCN participates in historic climate change proceedings before World Court

"Watershed moment" is a term often used too loosely, but not this time. It is not every day that the International Court of Justice – the highest judicial body of the United Nations, also known as the World Court – deals with climate change. In fact, this is the first time!

Last year the UN General Assembly requested that the ICJ issue an Advisory Opinion on State obligations to protect the climate system and the legal consequences if such obligations were breached. The deadline for States and authorised organisations to submit their written submissions was 22 March 2024.

IUCN requested the opportunity to contribute to these historical proceedings and was granted that possibility by the Court. This puts IUCN in a unique position. In fact, IUCN is the only not-fully governmental organisation whose views will be reviewed by the Court. All other parties to the Advisory Opinion proceedings are either States or fully intergovernmental international organisations.

The Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law, Prof Christina Voigt, presented IUCN’s written submission to the Registrar of the Court on Tuesday 19 March. IUCN will now have the possibility to provide the Court with written comments on other parties’ submissions by the end of June 2024 and to present its views during the oral proceedings, for which a date has not yet been set.

IUCN’s statement to the ICJ has been led by Lead Counsel Prof Voigt, who worked with a wide range of experts collaborating as Counsel. IUCN also benefited from the input of members of the World Commission on Environmental Law's Climate Change Law Specialist Group led by Prof Francesco Sindico and Dr Fabiano de Andrade Correa.

IUCN’s work in these historical ICJ proceedings strengthens the Union's position as a leading player in the development of international law on climate change and environmental protection. It follows similar contributions by IUCN to Advisory Opinion proceedings before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

“IUCN's voice in these proceedings is important," said Prof Voigt. "The Union has an international reputation of delivering sound scientific research and assessments on protecting nature, people, and the planet – and in our submission we apply this science to back up sound legal arguments. This is an opportunity as much as it is a responsibility. I am grateful to the members of the drafting committee, especially the co-chairs of WCEL's Climate Law Specialist Group, to the Advisory Group, and to the IUCN Secretariat for their tireless work and support.”

IUCN Director General Dr Grethel Aguilar expressed her own gratification with IUCN’s role in the proceedings.

“We celebrate that the ICJ has granted IUCN the opportunity to raise its voice for nature and people as part of these historic proceedings," she said. "This shows the high esteem for IUCN's expertise in science, knowledge, and law. We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law for their leadership and dedication in drafting this submission.”