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Palau Plans to Seek ICJ Advisory Opinion on Climate Change

The UN News Centre reports that the small island state of Palau plans to seek an advisory opinion from the ICJ in relation to climate change. While the exact details of the plan is not yet clear, this is indeed a significant development. The ICJ has on previous occasions ruled that, while states have the sovereign right to explore their natural resources, states are under an obligation to “ensure that activities within their jurisdiction and control respect the environment of other States or of areas beyond national control”.  Not surprisingly, though, the problem of climate change presents litigants with a series of problems in relation to causation (general and special), liability, responsibility and standard of proof making climate change an altogether different problem when it comes to litigation compare to more traditional cross-border pollution.
Interestingly, the news adds to the recent increase in environmental disputes before international courts and tribunals – at a time when the ICJ has abandoned its environmental chamber. Earlier in the year, we saw the Seabed Disputes Chamber of ITLOS issuing its first advisory opinion in relation to activities in the Area. Last year the ICJ delivered its judgment in the Pulp Mills on the River Uruguay (Argentina v. Uruguay) and another “environmental” dispute is pending before the Court in the Aerial Herbicide Spraying (Ecuador v. Colombia) case.
More to follow.


  1. Gentian Zyberi Gentian Zyberi 28 September 2011

    Palau is also the country that has declared the first sharks’ sanctuary, so it has the necessary credentials for making such a move. A beautiful country I’d like to visit some time.
    I’m wondering, however, as to how the ‘climate change’ question or questions to be put to the Court will be framed? Whether there is a ‘climate change’? If so, what measures need to be taken? Who bears responsibility and for what? How are the costs for the necessary steps to counter ‘climate change’ to be shared among the members of the United Nations?
    The first question for the proponents of this move is whether the Court is properly equipped to deal with this highly technical/scientific issue? And actually, is this issue ripe enough to be dealt with by the Court?

  2. elittube elittube 3 October 2011

    Thanks for this article.

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