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The Republic of Vanuatu, a small island nation in the South Pacific, just won a big victory in New York City. At the end of March, the UN General Assembly voted to adopt the request for an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the obligations of states with respect to climate change.
To talk through what Vanuatu's general counsel called, “a diplomatic feat of Herculean proportions,” Lawfare Managing Editor Tyler McBrien sat down with Melissa Stewart, Assistant Professor of Law Designate at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, and the author of a recent Lawfare article on the advisory opinion request and its potential risks and rewards. They discussed how an idea that began in an environmental law class in Fiji made it to the highest court in the world, what the ICJ might clarify or not, other efforts in international law to address climate change, and how territorial loss and other destructive effects from climate change could upend our traditional conception of statehood as we know it.