International court adds World Health Organization to opinion on climate change

International court adds World Health Organization to opinion on climate change
International court adds World Health Organization to opinion on climate change

The International Court of Justice granted the World Health Organization’s request to participate in the proceedings on its advisory opinion on the obligations of states in relation to climate change. At the request of the UN General Assembly, the International Court of Justice will determine the existing financial responsibility of parties for their contribution to climate change. It should be noted that the WHO’s permission came after the March 22 deadline for written submissions and without an extension. Thus, the deadline for sending the answers remains June 24.

On March 29, 2023, the UN General Assembly asked the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion on the legal obligations of parties to prevent climate change. The opinion, while non-binding, will provide an indicator of how the Court may interpret future climate-related litigation and guide future legislative development.

The UN sent an initial package of relevant laws and treaties. The court decided that member states and international organizations should also be given the opportunity to weigh in on their legal arguments and opinions through written submissions.

It is not known which international organizations have been denied the opportunity to submit written submissions, as the Court only announces organizations that have been approved. So far, the Court has empowered the African Union; the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS); Small Island States Commission on Climate Change and International Law; European Union; The Fisheries Agency Forum (FFA); International Union for Conservation of Nature; Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG); Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS); Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC); Pacific Islands Forum; and parties to the Nauru Agreement Office (PNAO) to participate in the proceedings. The addition of the WHO on March 26 is most likely the last. It is not clear which Member States have submitted written statements,

The depositions and court documents are currently private. However, the WHO has previously advocated that climate change is a public health emergency. At a strategic roundtable in May 2023, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, stated that “the climate crisis is a health crisis that is fueling epidemics, contributing to higher rates of non-communicable diseases and threatening to overwhelm our health workforce and health infrastructure. «

The court has not yet outlined the process it will use once the written submissions and responses are received, but I believe the advisory opinion will most likely not be released until sometime in 2025.

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