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Adoption of the UNGA Resolution to Request an Advisory Opinion from the ICJ on Climate Change

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At its 77th session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted, by consensus, a resolution requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Adoption of the UNGA Resolution to Request an Advisory Opinion from the ICJ on Climate Change

1/ Adoption of the Resolution

On March 29, 2023, the UNGA officially adopted resolution 77/276 requesting an advisory opinion from the ICJ on the obligations and responsibilities of States in the context of climate change. The UNGA, along with the Security Council, is one of the organs habilitated by article 65 of the ICJ Statute and article 96 of the Charter of the United Nations to request such opinions from the Court

In its resolution, the UNGA requests the ICJ to give its opinion on two specific questions:

  1. The obligations of States to protect the climate system for present and future generations.
  2. The legal consequences resulting from the violation of the identified obligations, with a special focus on small island developing States


2/ What are the next steps? 

The ICJ’s Registry received this request on April 17, 2023
. After being notified of this receipt, States who are members of the UNGA and international organizations who are likely to be able to furnish information on the question before the Court will be asked to elaborate and submit their written statements

Once they have submitted their observations, parties will also be able to make comments on others’ statements. Oral proceedings will then begin. 

After these proceedings are closed, the ICJ will have to prepare its opinion and answer the two questions asked in the resolution. However, even before looking at the substance of these questions, the Court may face some procedural hurdles. Indeed, its jurisdiction to give the requested advisory opinion will likely be contested.

Update: States and organizations currently have until January 22, 2024 to submit their written contributions. The deadline was extended by three months following a request from Vanuatu and 14 other States dated July 24, 2023. This will give States and organizations more time to write up their submissions.

To read Jorge Viñuales’ article on the topic of advisory opinions and climate change, please visit this page:Climate change and the advisory function of international courts and tribunals (March 7, 2023)

To read Nele Matz-Lück’s article that touches upon the usefulness of advisory opinions for environmental protection, please visit this page:Green human rights and Common Interest(August 30, 2023)

To find out more about the finalization of the draft resolution last February, please visit this previous News post: A Final Draft for the ICJ Advisory Opinion on Human Rights and Climate Change (February 28, 2023)