Statement by H.E. Andrejs Pildegovics of The Republic of Latvia at the 64th Plenary Meeting on the Draft resolution requesting an Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice on climate change

United Nations

New York

29 March 2023

Mr. President,

Latvia aligns itself with the statement of the European Union and appreciates the contributions of the core group. 

Today is a historic day. The consensually adopted resolution has shown that Vanuatu and other small island developing states and vulnerable countries around the world, facing the impacts of climate change, are not alone in their fight.

Vanuatu has played a unique role in shaping the responses to the global climate crisis by demonstrating that climate change is an environmental issue that undoubtedly reaches beyond the legal framework on international environmental law.

International courts and tribunals can play an important role in elaboration and development of rules of international law that guide the conduct of States and other actors in dealing with the causes and implications of climate crisis. We express our appreciation for the historic Vanuatu initiative to request an advisory opinion on climate change from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on climate change and international law, which Latvia was proud to co-sponsor. Latvia is seriously considering involvement in these advisory proceedings to contribute to the development of international law.

The ICJ has made landmark contributions to the development of rules of international law addressed by the request. Already in the 1996 advisory opinion concerning Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, the Court:

recognize[d] that the environment is not an abstraction but represents the living space, the quality of life and the very health of human beings, including generations unborn. The existence of the general obligation of States to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction and control respect the environment of other States or of areas beyond national control is now part of the corpus of international law relating to the environment ([1996] ICJ Rep 226, para 29).

In later decisions, the Court has explained and developed international law of environment, law of the sea, and human rights law in other important respects. We are confident that the requested ICJ advisory opinion will bring greater legal clarity on climate crisis.  

As we continue to respond to the crises unfolding across the world, we must not lose the commitment of working together to create a sustainable and resilient world for all – big and small.

I thank you.