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FEATURE: Legal Response Initiative supports Least Developed Countries at UNFCCC meeting in Bangkok


Christoph Schwarte from Legal Response Initiative reports from the UNFCCC climate change meeting in Bangkok, Thailand where the UNFCCC parties were meeting to prepare for the next major climate conference at the end of the year in Doha, Qatar. The countries and societies that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change tend to be seriously outnumbered by much larger delegations from the North in the UNFCCC negotiations. Funded by CDKN, the Legal Response Initiative supports these nations and communities by providing legal advice and assistance on a pro bono basis.

Lawyers from Legal Response Initiative (LRI) met current and forthcoming chairs of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) and the African Group, among others, at the Bangkok Climate Change Conference this month. The limited number of participants and the informal nature of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting presented a good opportunity to strengthen relations among delegations facing the hardest challenges in getting their views heard.

At the 18th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Doha, parties will have to address provisional application of the Kyoto Protocol, the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA), the interpretation of common but differentiated responsibilities and several other issues with significant legal dimensions. This was reflected in the number of legal queries – over 20 – received by LRI’s representatives at the meeting. More than half of the queries came from delegates representing developing countries; the other half were from non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Progress in the negotiations remains slow, with policy makers and lawyers increasingly contemplating the use of other avenues to promote environmental justice and develop political pressure on the UNFCCC process.

In the UN General Assembly, Palau announced that, in collaboration with other countries, it will be seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on climate change damage. To date, the ICJ has delivered over 20 advisory opinions that carry significant legal weight and can provide some guidance for the international community.

In July, the Legal Response Initiative published two legal briefing papers on the Palau initiative which are available here.

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