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Statement after adoption of resolution on ICJ Advisory Opinion on Climate Change

Statement by H.E. Jörundur Valtýsson,
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
General Assembly 77th session, 29 March 2023
Draft resolution A/77/L.58 – Request for an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the obligations of States in respect of climate change.

Mr. President.

At the outset, let me thank Vanuatu and other core group members for this important initiative, and for the constructive approach they have taken to negotiations on the text.

Iceland is a co-sponsor of this draft resolution, in recognition of that climate change is the defining issue of our time - and of the importance for Small Island Developing States and other states that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Throughout the process, leading up to the adoption of this resolution, it has been clear that above all else, the hope is that the initiative becomes part of a collective push towards greater climate action. Likewise, the UN Secretary General, in response to the report of the IPCC released earlier this month, has presented a plan to super-charge efforts, namely the Acceleration Agenda.

The time to act is now. Iceland is committed to climate action. Our government has set an ambitious emission reduction goal, as well as a national carbon neutrality target through climate legislation. This means that our laws state that Iceland is to achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2040. In addition, Iceland is to reach full energy conversion no later than 2040, which will make Iceland fully free of fossil fuels. Also, our government will not issue any licences for oil exploration in our exclusive economic zone.

Internationally, Iceland has stepped up contributions to climate finance, by doubling our commitment to the Green Climate Fund during the past two years and joining the Adaptation Fund. We thereby recognize the crucial role of adaptation, for which the need can be most dire within the states, and among the people, that have least contributed to climate change. Our multilateral development cooperation is also increasingly focused on Climate Finance.

Mr. President,

Regarding the text of this resolution, we welcome an advisory opinion of the ICJ, to shed light on the obligations of States under applicable international law, and the legal consequences for all States for breaching these obligations.

We expect the Court to answer the legal questions on the basis of the current obligations of all States to ensure the protection of the climate system and other parts of the environment from anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. The questions to the ICJ, and the Resolution as a whole, do neither prejudge the nature of such obligations, nor whether breaches have occurred, are occurring or will occur.

Furthermore, we note that the preamble refers to some matters that are not related to legal obligations and as such would not be expected to have bearing on this advisory opinion.

Our co-sponsorship is without prejudice to our position on, and interpretation of, the obligations, instruments and concepts this resolution refers to, as well as any eventual submissions before the ICJ and other courts and tribunals.

Mr. President,

Iceland actively and constructively participated in the process that led to the adoption of this resolution today. We were positive towards the idea from the outset and happy to have become one of the co-sponsors. We remain committed to climate action and recall the primary role of the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement in that regard.

I thank you.


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