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Climate justice and the role of international law

Time (GMT +00) 14:00 15:30
Image credit:Global climate change strike protest demonstration - No Planet B Image license:Markus Spiske/Unsplash
This event has finished, watch or listen to the playback below.


Running order [English]

00:00 – Emily Wilkinson, a Senior Research Fellow at ODI and director of the Resilient and Sustainable Islands initiative (RESI), greets the audience.

00:40 - Sara Pantuliano, ODI’s Chief Executive, provides some introductory remarks and puts the event in the context of the upcoming vote at the UN General Assembly.

05:10 – Nadia Sánchez, an international lawyer at Climate Legal Consulting and a Visiting Researcher with Utrecht University, sets the scene by introducing the role of international law in advancing climate justice.

12:35 – Cristián Delpiano Lira, President of Chile’s Second Environmental Tribunal, describes recent progress in advancing climate justice through the Chilean courts, and gives a sense of how far climate litigation can go.

27:00 – The first panel session, on the synergies between climate justice litigation and international law, begins. Rohan Nanthakumar (Senior Solicitor in the Pasifika Program, which is part of Australia’s Environmental Defenders Office) and James Goldston (Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative) discuss how international law can influence national climate litigation, and what to expect from processes relating to advisory opinions from international courts.

50:05 – His Excellency Ralph Regenvanu, Vanuatu’s Minister of Climate Change Adaptation, Meteorology and Geo-Hazards, Energy, Environment and Disaster Risk Management, speaks via video message about Vanuatu's initiative to bring climate change to the International Court of Justice.

55:02 – Christopher Bartlett, Climate Diplomacy Manager for the Republic of Vanuatu, moderates a second panel discussion on the role of international courts in climate justice more broadly, and how they sit within our overall climate architecture. Panellists Nicole Ponce (Front Convener for Asia, World's Youth for Climate Justice), Harjeet Singh (Climate Justice Lead Climate Action Network International) and Digno Montalván (Researcher at the Universidad Carlos III in Madrid) talk about how advisory opinions could influence national climate litigation, and the role of youth in mobilising climate action.

1:19:00 – Emily poses questions to the panelists from the audience.

1:23:50 – Ms. Rebecca Fabrizi, the UK’s Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Envoy, closes the session with some final remarks.

About the event

The planet is facing an existential climate crisis.

International law already contains obligations to prevent harm to the environment and protect human rights, but how can these obligations be used to spur transformative climate action by states?

A growing coalition of more than 80 nations, led by Vanuatu, is calling for a non-binding Advisory Opinion from the UN’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the obligations of states under international law to protect the rights of present and future generations against the adverse effects of climate change. These countries hope to gain clarity on how existing international laws can be applied to strengthen action on climate change, protect people and the environment and save the Paris Agreement.

This event, hosted by ODI’s Resilient and Sustainable Islands Initiative (RESI), brings legal, human rights, climate change and international development specialists together to discuss this and other multilateral initiatives, as well as lessons from national climate litigation.


  • Sara Pantuliano

    ODI Chief Executive

  • Emily Wilkinson

    ODI Senior Research Fellow and RESI Director

  • Christopher Bartlett

    Climate Diplomacy Manager, Republic of Vanuatu

  • Nadia Sánchez Castillo-Winckels

    International Lawyer, Climate Legal Consulting and Visiting Researcher, Utrecht University

  • Cristián Delpiano Lira

    President of the Second Environmental Tribunal, Chile

  • Digno Montalván

    Lawyer and Pre-doctoral Researcher, University Carlos III of Madrid

  • The Hon. Ralph Regenvanu

    Minister for Climate Change, Republic of Vanuatu

  • Harjeet Singh

    Climate Justice Lead, Climate Action Network International

  • Rohan Nanthakumar

    Senior Solicitor, Pasifika Program at the Environmental Defenders Office, Australia

  • Nicole Ponce

    Front Convener for Asia of the World's Youth for Climate Justice

  • James A. Goldston

    Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative