Vanuatu launches campaign to seek advisory opinion from the World Court

The government of Vanuatu has launched a global campaign to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legal responsibility for climate change.

The idea of seeking this advisory opinion came from a group of students at the University of the South Pacific.

An opinion of this type is not binding on any country or other entity. However, these opinions have had an influential impact on international law and global policy previously. The government of Vanuatu sees this as a move to catalyse more action across the globe.

Vanuatu will need to lobby other nations within the Pacific and beyond to take this forward. In order for the ICJ to provide an advisory opinion, the request will have to be endorsed by a majority of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Pacific leaders address the UN General Assembly

Leaders of countries from the Pacific have participated in the 76th UN General Assembly. The event was held as a hybrid format with some leaders addressing the Assembly in person whilst others sent pre-recorded contributions.

Several key themes were common to the speeches of Pacific leaders. They included the need for equitable access to vaccines to enable all countries to move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Climate change was also an important topic for Pacific leaders. There were several calls for the global community to increase its ambition in cutting carbon emissions. Several leaders reminded the Assembly that climate change is seen as the single greatest threat to the security and wellbeing of the region.

Vanuatu made a call for the UN to act in relation to human rights abuses in West Papua. This provoked a rebuke from Indonesia, exercising its first right of reply.

Xi Jinping talks with leaders of Tonga and Solomon Islands

President Xi Jinping has spoken with King Tupou VI of Tonga and Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of Solomon Islands in recent days.

During the call with the king of Tonga, President Xi promised assistance with agriculture and fisheries projects. This would include facilitating access for Tongan products into the Chinese market. King Tupou reaffirmed his country’s adherence to the One China policy and said that Tonga will “firmly support China on issues concerning its core interests”.

In speaking with the PM of Solomon Islands, President Xi said that a deepened political relationship between the two countries would allow for China to assist Solomon Islands with poverty reduction in line with national development plans. Sogavare welcomed Chinese support for his country and said his government “will continue to firmly support China on issues related to Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and human rights”.

Fiji passes Climate Change Act

The parliament of Fiji has passed a Climate Change Act into law. The Act makes the commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 legally binding. It also commits to 100% sustainable use of Fiji’s oceans and the use of nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

In his address to the UN General Assembly (delivered via video) Prime Minister Bainimarama called on other countries to follow Fiji’s example in making their recovery from COVID-19 greener and bluer.

During parliamentary debates on the legislation, Lynda Tabuya criticised the government. Ms Tabuya who is an MP in the Opposition SODELPA party said that the government’s only aim was to secure financing at the forthcoming COP26 meeting. She claimed that there was a lack of concrete action on the part of the Fiji First government in addressing climate change challenges at home.


Tess Newton Cain is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Griffith Asia Institute and project lead of the Pacific Hub.