More than 100 countries have backed a plan by Vanuatu to enlist the UN’s top court in tackling climate change, after what the nation’s officials on Thursday described as a “herculean” diplomatic effort.
With rising sea levels threatening its future, Vanuatu has spearheaded a drive for the court to define what legal responsibility countries have for the changing climate and its impacts.
The 105 nations backing the move will co-sponsor a resolution at this year’s UN General Assembly.
Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom are among those on board, as well as Pacific nations like Kiribati and Marshall Islands, which also face rising sea levels.
But neither China nor the United States — two of the world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitters — have pledged support.
Nor have larger developing nations, like Indonesia and India, that rely on coal.
An opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would not be binding, but would help set a legal precedent.
Vanuatu was lashed by Cyclone Judy on Wednesday, with torrential rains and fierce winds uprooting trees, tearing roofs from buildings and flooding roads.
The archipelago, home to 320,000, is threatened by a second tropical storm in as many days with Cyclone Kelvin expected to pass near Vanuatu on Friday.
Government spokesman Joe Harry Karu welcomed the support, adding that these latest cyclones highlight the threat facing Vanuatu.
“The effects of climate change are clear to see when you look at the latest damage caused by the cyclone,” he said.
Meanwhile, an earthquake of 6.8 magnitude struck west of Luganville, Vanuatu region on Friday, the U.S Geological Survey (USGS) said.
The quake struck 95 km (59.03 miles) west of Luganville and 33 km below the earth’s surface, USGS added.