Drishtikon: Historical, But Is It Inclusive?

The Sangyan
3 min readMar 30, 2023

Request for an Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the obligations of States in respect of climate change.

The caption is the image description. The poster has the exact text, The Sangyan logo, the date 30th March 2023, Abhishek Kumar (author name), and the heading “HISTORICAL, BUT IS IT INCLUSIVE?”.
Request for an Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the obligations of States in respect of climate change.

On the 29th of March 2023, the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a historic resolution by consensus (A/77/L.58) requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the obligations of States with respect to climate change.

The request for an advisory opinion acknowledges that “climate change is an unprecedented challenge of civilisational proportions and that the well-being of present and future generations of humankind depends on our immediate and urgent response to it”. The advisory opinion represents an opportunity to clarify the legal obligations of States with respect to climate change under the international legal regime.

The ICJ request adds to the two existing requests for advisory opinions on climate change pending with the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR).

The General Assembly requested the ICJ render an opinion on the following questions:

(a) What are the obligations of States under international law to ensure the protection of the climate system and other parts of the environment from anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gasses (GHG) for States and for present and future generations?

(b) What are the legal consequences under these obligations for States where they, by their acts and omissions, have caused significant harm to the climate system and other parts of the environment, with respect to:

(i) States, including, in particular, small island developing States, which due to their geographical circumstances and level of development, are injured or specially affected by or are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change?

(ii) Peoples and individuals of the present and future generations affected by the adverse effects of climate change?

Though the resolution promises much hope for climate justice, it’s disappointing that though it takes note of most international human rights conventions, it misses out on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD, an international human rights convention which sets out the fundamental human rights of people with disability), given that climate change acts as a ‘threat multiplier’ having disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities including children, women, old adults, and people with disabilities with respect to the Cost of Living; Environmental Migration and Displacement; Health, Water, and Sanitation; Livelihood and Decent Work; (Disability)-inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction(DiDRR); Capability Approach; Accessibility; Hunger, Poverty, Energy, and Food Security; Mental Health (like Climate/Eco Anxiety); Habitat and Adequate Housing (Climate Resilient Architecture); Eco-ableism; Loss and Damage (assistive, adaptive, and rehabilitative devices); Climate change-induced Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and beyond.

Given the vulnerable communities’ greater exposure, higher sensitivity, and lower ability to adapt (capability deprivation owing to climate change), climate change has cascading and compounding impact on persons with disabilities.

IPCC Report also states that the best way to protect people from climate change is by tackling “inequities such as those based on gender, ethnicity, disability, age, location and income”, and thus, the disability community must be considered as the critical stakeholder of the climate justice conversation.

Prepared by

Abhishek Kumar. NCPEDP — Javed Abidi Fellow on Disability.

The author can be reached at abhishek.ncpedp@gmail.com. Abhishek also curates The Sangyan.



The Sangyan

Law. Environment. Disability | Curator ~ Adv. Abhishek Kumar | Working on the 'Impact of Climate Change on Persons with Disabilities' | thesangyan.in | 🇮🇳 |