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Public Hearing in Barbados on the Advisory Opinion on “The Climate Emergency and Human Rights”


Bridgetown, Barbados - The Inter-American Human Rights Court held its first Public Hearing 24 to 26 April on the Request for Advisory Opinion on “The Climate Emergency and Human Rights” during the 166th Regular Session of the Inter-American Court of Justice in Bridgetown, Barbados. There will be four additional days of hearings in Brazil in May 2024.

After receiving more than 260 written briefs, the Court organized three days of the hearing in Barbados, a vulnerable island State. The President of Barbados and members of the cabinet opened the session. The hearings ran from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. to accommodate the more than 60 presentations on behalf of more than 130 groups who were invited to make oral presentations.  There were four hour-long panels of presenters each day, and each panel was followed by an hour of questions from the six judges, who asked excellent and often difficult questions.

The written briefs were submitted by 36 States and public institutions, 17 indigenous and other communities, more than 90 NGOs and think tanks, 70 academic institutions, and 45 special experts. Thousands of signatures accompanied the different submissions, for example the environmental defenders submissions—which included methane and the other short-lived climate pollutants—was signed by more than 200 defenders. Never in the history of the Court has an advisory opinion process spurred this extraordinary level of participation.

The IGSD team delivered several presentations in support of our key messages:

  • Maxime Beaugrand, IGSD Director of the Paris Office, presented on behalf of the Science Advisory Panel of the Climate & Clean Air Coalition (from 2:22:32) focused on introducing the basics of short-lived climate pollutant mitigation, including most importantly that cutting the super climate pollutants can avoid 0.6°C of warming by 2050. See also short interview with Maxime, Climate Change and what Barbados is doing.
  • Durwood Zaelke, IGSD President, presented on the importance of fast mitigation to avoid the 11 tipping points between 1.5°C, a temperature  he noted we’ll hit by 2030, and 2°C, which we’ll hit by 2050. He emphasized the importance of reducing short-lived climate pollutants, particularly methane, to reduce near-term warming. See corresponding LinkedIn post. The Judges followed up with a Q/A session.
    • Judge Gomez asked Durwood for further information on tipping points, and DZ discussed paleo and observational data, mentioning the dangers of the Arctic, Antarctic, and Amazon tipping points.
    • Judge Manrique asked Durwood about the failure and successes of international governance approaches, and he explained that UNFCC’s voluntary approach has not been effective, in contrast to the Montreal Protocol, which has avoided warming equal to CO2’s warming and is on course to avoid 2.5C of warming by end of century. See corresponding LinkedIn post.
  • Romina Picolotti, IGSD Director of Climate Policy, presented on the need for the Court to accept the human right to resilience, as described in IGSD’s brief to the Court. In addition, Romina focused on how the Court could give specific content to the States' obligations in this crucial decade, including judicial training of domestic courts as well as adaptation of legal frameworks to better capture the extraordinary harm and the concept of time as a critical fact of climate change.
    • Judge Gomez also asked Romina about the need of creating a practice of adaptation law to meet the urgency of the climate emergency. Romina emphasized the need for a timely and effective remedy and gave some examples of how the Advisory Opinion could include specific language to guide States, particularly the judiciary.
    • Judge Manrique asked Romina what the response should be by an international system of human rights protection for addressing the climate emergency.

  • IGSD’s youth program, FACE Intergenerational Justice, made three interventions in collaboration with the Center for Human Rights & Environment and nearly 30 youth organizations from 12 countries, five Indigenous communities, and several regional and global coalitions:
    • Samantha Derksen (from 27:09) focused on the need for fast climate action to prevent large scale, irreversible damage to the climate system and explained the importance of reducing short-lived climate pollutants. She called for the Court to advise States concretely on the mitigation measures they must take to address the climate emergency. Samantha, a pro bono lawyer from Hausfeld, also delivered the introduction to the session (from 21:01).
    • Jovana Hoschtialek (from 21:51) gave a first-hand account of climate impacts in her home of Grenada and reminded the Court of what is at stake for future generations, and to avoid the burden of climate mitigation being shifted to youth of today and tomorrow.
    • Laura Serna Mosquera (from 25:34) asked for the Court to help mandate strict mitigation and adaptation measures from States. She reminded the Court that “we are not prepared for what lies ahead without ambitious action, and we are the last generation that can act now.”

After the session, the Court highlighted the youth participation in its proceedings. Further, Jovana and FACE Co-Chair Trina Chiemi were features in an article in The Guardian published ahead of the proceedings in Barbados.

See the Press Release from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Concludes a Week in Barbados of Historic International Dialogue on the Climate Emergency / Concluye en Barbados una Semana de Diálogo Histórico sobre la Emergencia Climática.