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5 April 20244 minute read

DLA Piper advises three small island States pro bono in first written round of the International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on Climate Change

DLA Piper has advised the Governments of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, the Kingdom of Tonga, and Solomon Islands pro-bono in preparing their first written statements in the advisory opinion on climate change before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

The United Nations General Assembly, by consensus, has requested the ICJ provide an advisory opinion on the obligations of States under international law to protect the climate system from the adverse effects of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions for States and for present and future generations. The ICJ has also been asked to consider the legal consequences for States that have caused significant harm to the climate.

The ICJ proceedings follow the recent climate change advisory opinion before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) on States’ obligations to protect the marine environment from the impacts of climate changes. DLA Piper also supported Timor-Leste in those proceedings (read more here).

Partner, Stephen Webb, said “the ICJ advisory opinion is the most significant climate legal proceedings to date and will set a new bar as to what States’ obligations are to protect the environment from the impacts of climate change”. Partner, Gitanjali Bajaj added “these proceedings are likely to be the largest representation of Small Island States comprehensively outlining for the first time, individually and collectively, the much-needed actions and priorities to address the challenges of climate change.”

International Head of Responsible Business, Claire Donse said “Small Island Developing States are among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts, yet often lack the resources to fully participate in global proceedings of this kind. By taking these cases on a pro bono basis, we help give those States most vulnerable to climate risk an opportunity to effectively participate, share their perspectives from the frontlines of climate change, and to call for measures which protect the most vulnerable”.

States that submitted a written statement in the first round of the proceedings are now invited to submit written comments in response to the statements received from other States. The deadline for written comments is 24 June 2024, with the oral hearings expected to take place in late 2024 or early 2025.

The DLA Piper team comprised Stephen Webb (Partner, Brisbane), Gitanjali Bajaj (Partner, Sydney), Claire Donse (Partner, London), Cate Martin (Pro Bono Director, Sydney), Claire Robertson (Solicitor, Brisbane), Milly Thomas (Associate, London), Austyn Campbell (Solicitor, Sydney), Nick Cubit (Solicitor, Brisbane), Riley Arthur (Solicitor, Brisbane), Eran Sthoeger Esq. as Counsel for Timor-Leste, Monica Feria-Tinta as Counsel for Tonga, and Harj Narulla as Counsel for Solomon Islands.  The DLA Piper team was also supported by John Ridgway, Dirk Heinz, Damian Kelly, and other members of Pacific Legal Network in relation to Solomon Islands.

If you would like to learn more about the advisory opinion proceedings and their significance you can read more here.



DLA Piper has a depth of experience in high profile public international law matters of historical significance. DLA Piper is a leader in understanding and advising on legal liability and the legal risks associated with the impacts of climate change. We advise governments and the private sector on climate change related matters, including being the provider of legal services for COP26. On commercial projects, the firm has been ranked No. 1 for turnover of closed renewable projects and M+A deals closed for a number years now. If you would like further information about the advisory opinions proceedings before the international courts, please contact Stephen Webb or Gitanjali Bajaj.