It’s Monday, March 6, and most countries in the U.N. are calling on the world’s top court to weigh in on climate justice.

President of Vanuatu, Nikenike Vurobaravu

More than 100 of the United Nations’ 193 member states have now signed onto a climate resolution calling for the International Court of Justice to weigh in on what governments are legally obligated to do to mitigate climate change and protect people from its impacts.

“[C]limate change is an unprecedented challenge of civilizational proportions,” reads the resolution, spearheaded by the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. It invokes the many commitments that the U.N. has made to human rights and the environment, arguing that an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice is needed to spur more aggressive climate action — particularly from the governments of wealthy countries that bear a  disproportionate responsibility for rising global temperatures.

The International Court of Justice, one of the six bodies of the U.N., has no enforcement powers, but experts say its opinion could influence climate lawsuits and international negotiations in favor of vulnerable countries.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

The resolution notes that rich countries have failed to mobilize $100 billion a year in climate finance for the developing world, which they had promised to do by 2020. It also says more “capacity building and technology transfer” is needed to help developing countries cope with loss and damage from sea-level rise, ocean acidification, drought, and climate-related extreme weather events. These disasters are already costing countries like Vanuatu hundreds of millions of dollars, destroying people’s homes and livelihoods.

The resolution is now supported by 105 co-sponsors, including most European, African, and Pacific island countries. Australia, Canada, and Mexico also back the plan, but a handful of oil-rich countries — including the United States — have yet to support it. A final draft of the resolution was formally uploaded to the U.N.’s delegate portal late last month so it can be adopted later this spring by the U.N.’s General Assembly, the organization’s main policy-making body.

To pass the resolution, Vanuatu needs support from a simple majority of U.N. member states — which it seems to already have, although the country’s legal adviser at the U.N. has said they’re seeking even greater support to send a “signal” to the court.

In the news

EPA mandates states report on cyber threats to water systems
Suman Naishadham, AP News
Read more

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Employment commission sues Exxon Mobil, alleging discrimination after nooses found at facility
Jared Gans, The Hill
Read more

The hazards of gas stoves were flagged by the industry — and hidden — 50 years ago
Kate Yoder, Grist
Read more

Why North Dakota is preparing to sue Minnesota over clean energy
Zoya Teirstein, Grist
Read more

In India, sacred groves are helping resurrect a near-extinct forest ecosystem
Mahima Jain, Hakai Magazine
Read more

Correction: This newsletter originally included an incorrect link for a Grist article about the hazards of gas stoves.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.