The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat has submitted a written statement to the International Court of Justice on the question of the Obligations of States in respect of Climate Change.

This is the first time the Secretariat is participating in a proceeding of the World Court, whose seat is at the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands.

The Secretariat was represented by Merewalesi Falemaka, Permanent Observer, Ambassador of the Pacific Islands Forum to the United Nations Office and Other International Organisations in Geneva, and International Legal Adviser, Mary Victoria Faasau.

As directed by Forum Members and guided by the Forum Specialist Sub-Committee on Sea-level rise in relation to International Law, the PIF statement focuses on agreed Forum regional collective positions, to date, on the issue of climate change related sea-level rise.

Pacific nations are amongst the most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, and sea-level rise related to climate change is a real and pressing issue. Forum Leaders continue to reaffirm climate change, inclusive of sea-level rise caused by anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, as the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security, and wellbeing of the people of the Pacific.

Two key PIF instruments cited in the statement are the “2021 Pacific Islands Forum Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-Related Sea-Level Rise” and the “2023 Pacific Islands Forum Declaration on the Continuity of Statehood and the Protection of Persons in the face of Climate Change-Related Sea-Level Rise”.

The 2021 and 2023 PIF Declarations offer interpretation of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and relevant international law principles, as pertaining to the global phenomenon of climate change-related sea-level rise, and in pursuit of the protection of States, Peoples and individuals of present and future generations affected by the adverse effects of climate change.

In terms of next steps, States, and organisations, having presented written statements to the Court, may submit written comments on the other written statements by the deadline of 24 June 2024. The oral proceedings of the Court will be notified in due course.