International Development Law Organization

Climate Justice for SIDS: a Rule of Law-centred Approach for Transformative Climate Action

Side event organized by the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) in partnership with the Government of Vanuatu and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on the occasion of the 4th International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4).

Thursday, 30 May 2024
10:00-11:30 am
American University of Antigua, Side Event Room 5

Small Island Developing States have been at the forefront of the global climate action agenda for over three decades. While their high exposure to the effects of climate change poses critical risks to the long-term prospects for sustainable development on their islands, climate champions from the Caribbean, the Pacific and AIMS have pioneered transformative legal and policy initiatives at the international level – from advocating for reforms to the international financial architecture, to initiating an advisory opinion on climate change at the world’s highest court, the International Court of Justice. Despite this, SIDS still face significant challenges when it comes to climate-resilient development, including the availability and access of much-needed climate finance, the unique geographical challenges facing archipelagic SIDS, and a lack of urgency at the global level with respect to climate action efforts.

The Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS (ABAS) underlines the importance of the rule of law and equal access to fair justice systems in fostering safe, healthy and prosperous societies – and these principles are also vital enablers of climate justice for SIDS in this critical decade. The rule of law incorporates the substantive element of justice, which emphasizes equality, fairness, and non-discrimination, and includes a commitment to democratic principles and good governance. Strengthening the rule of law can empower a diversity of rights-holders on the frontlines of the climate crisis to realize their rights, including the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as recognised by the General Assembly in resolution 76/300. It also promotes active participation in governance and decision-making, while ensuring that institutions have the necessary tools to advance climate-resilient development – including through leveraging public and private financing, and ensuring fair and impactful responses to loss and damage at all levels.

This discussion will contribute to the implementation of the ABAS programme of action by addressing the importance of SDG16 and its core elements of the rule of law and access to justice, as well as its interlinkages with other SDGs, in promoting environmental protection and planetary sustainability. It will focus on the role of the rule of law in building strong and well-funded institutions that can respond to the increasing risk of climate change, and its potential to empower rights-holders to work towards gender equality, intergenerational justice, and a just transition to a sustainable and secure future. A diverse community of stakeholders will analyze the challenges from previous programmes of action, identify concrete solutions in the context of the ABAS, and discuss tools and mechanisms to effectively secure sustainable partnerships for stronger engagements. It will address the following questions:

  • What is the contribution of the rule of law and SDG16 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in achieving the objectives of the ABAS programme of action and promoting long-term peace and security?
  • How can institutions, particularly the justice sector, be strengthened in order to deliver climate justice at the national, regional and global levels, and what legal and policy initiatives have shown promise in promoting transformative action?
  • How can developing effective institutions and global governance in-line with SDG16 be used to promote and facilitate investments for SIDS, particularly for enabling local institutions to leverage funding, and increase access to sustainable financing for climate action at all levels – including in relation to loss and damage?
  • What are best practices that have shown promising results for the legal empowerment of rights-holders, including environmental human rights defenders, women and girls and young people?