Kigali, RWANDA – June 22, 2022: 5pm (Nuku’alofa Times/CF Media): Small Island Developing States like Tonga could benefit from a new initiative that was discussed at The Commonwealth People’s Forum here in Kigali, Rwanda.
The largest gathering of civil society in the Commonwealth discussed how the Commonwealth can deliver climate justice where other mechanisms have failed.
The meeting heard, during discussions on ‘Climate Justice and Leadership for Change in the Commonwealth’, a proposal from Rwandan Minister of Justice and Attorney General Dr Emmanuel Ugirashebuja for the establishment of a World Environment Court.
Dr Emmanuel said he believes the WEC could help in ensuring climate justice, although it is a small window of opportunity.
“I have been a strong proponent of a World Environmental Court. Global challenges need global solutions. Climate change does not have borders, it transcends borders. We only have a very small room of opportunity to really reverse the impacts of climate change and environmental problems and I think the legal avenues at the multilateral level are very limited at the moment,” Dr Emmanuel stated.
The call received loud applauses from participants and delegates at the discussion and also support from other panelists who were on that particular panel.
Dr James Fletcher, former Saint Lucian climate change negotiator who played a pivotal role in the adoption of the Paris Agreement at COP21, supported this in principle, but with some concerns because of the inaction by key players in taking responsibility of the issues.
“I welcome any thought of an environmental court but I know judging from the kind of resistance to loss and damage, we will have problems. That said, civil society can help because if we just leave it to the politicians to argue, compromises will be made back and deals will be made,” he said.
“The Environment Court will be the best way to do that. We will not be able to do it on our own. We need you (civil society) to champion this.”
Dr Fletcher added that added that the time for negotiations is now, whether that’s in court or another multilateral forum as small island states can’t afford more talk.
“So many small island developing states are disappearing. There are islands in the Bahamas, in the Marshall Islands, that will disappear,” he said.
“In Jakarta, cities are under threat. There is nothing you could do to adapt to that. There is no seawall that you could build to cause that to change. Somebody has to take responsibility for this.”