Vanuatu’s Ambassador to Europe, George Maniuri, has submitted the national written statement regarding the obligations of states to climate change to the world’s highest court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Submitted almost a year after the United Nations General Assembly’s agreed for ICJ to give an Advisory Opinion (AO), the submission marks a significant moment for Vanuatu’s international leadership in pursuit of climate justice.

The 700-plus page written statement is the product of months of preparation, evidence collection and drafting by the legal team led by Attorney General (AG) Arnold Kiel Loughman with support from external counsel, Blue Ocean Law, and the ministries of climate change and foreign affairs.

According to a statement from the Vanuatu Climate Diplomacy Programme, an estimated over 90 States and regional organisations have submitted statements, demonstrating the importance of the case.

“The written statements, like Vanuatu’s, cover a range of legal arguments and scientific evidence on climate change to assist the Court in coming to its opinion. Distinguished experts, scientists, legal scholars, and stakeholders from around the globe have contributed valuable insights as part of this process,” the statement cited.

“This milestone cannot be celebrated without recognition of the impassioned efforts of law students from the Pacific Islands, who recognised the urgent need for legal action to address the existential threat of climate change and initiated what has now become a global movement. The advocacy efforts by the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change and the World Youth for Climate Justice, combined with the diplomatic efforts from Vanuatu’s missions in New York, led by Ambassador Odo Tevi, Brussels, led by Ambassador Maniuri, and High Commission in Suva, led by Commissioner Viran Brown, resulted in the ICJ receiving a record number of submissions from States in history.

“In commemorating this achievement, Vanuatu reaffirms its unwavering commitment to climate justice and just transition for all, Global North and South States alike.”

Over the coming months, Vanuatu’s legal and diplomatic teams will continue working on the next phase of the proceedings, the ‘written comments’ phase. In this phase, Vanuatu and other States and organisations that have submitted written statements will now have the opportunity to make observations and respond to the arguments presented in other States’ written statements.

The deadline for this is 24 June 2024.