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In recent years, the number and diversity of climate-related lawsuits have increased, with courts in over seventy jurisdictions now handling such cases. After the expansion through domestic courts, stakeholders worldwide are turning to international courts and tribunals to help define the responsibilities of states in light of the climate crisis. Three initiatives requesting advisory opinions to international courts or tribunals have been announced within six months. These advisory opinions could have significant implications for international climate change law, defining the human rights obligations of states (and potentially corporations) in light of the climate crisis. It is expected the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will publish advisory opinions on climate change in 2024–2025. These advisory opinions are nonbinding. Nonetheless, the rank and prestige of the court and tribunals involved convey the importance and influence of advisory opinions in articulating states’ obligations under international law. The advent of these advisory opinions makes this a momentous occasion for global climate litigation, with the world’s highest courts weighing in on the legal rights and duties related to the climate crisis.

This article traces the beginnings of the trio of requests, placing them within the context of global climate litigation. It discusses why the time is ripe for these advisory opinions’ contributions to developing international climate-change law while comparing the legal questions posed to the judicial bodies. The article further discusses the challenges and opportunities these requests present.


Environmental Law | International Law | Law