22 Nov 2018

Vanuatu could take legal action against climate change culprits

7:31 pm on 22 November 2018

Vanuatu is putting the fossil fuel industry and the states that sponsor it on notice.

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The government of Vanuatu is looking at ways to take legal action against corporations and companies that cause climate change. Photo: Laszlo Konya/ 123rf

In what could be world-first legal action by a climate-vulnerable country, Vanuatu's Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu said his country is considering legal action against the world's most polluting fossil fuel corporations and countries.

His comments came during the Climate Vulnerable Forum's Virtual Summit, which is taking place online.

Vanuatu, which is home to 260,000 people, is made up of 82 volcanic islands across 1,280km of sea. Many of the islands sit less than a metre above sea level.

"The injustice of climate change is that the impacts are felt first and hardest by those with the least responsibility for its causes," Mr Regenvanu said.

"Vanuatu is on the front lines of climate change and yet we have benefited least from the exploitation of fossil fuels that has caused it.

"I am therefore today putting the fossil fuel industry, and the states that sponsor it, on notice that the climate loss and damages ravaging Vanuatu will not go unchallenged."

The Vanuatu government is exploring ways to use the judicial system, possibly under international law, to shift the costs of climate protection back onto fossil fuel companies, financial institutions and governments that "created this existential threat to Vanuatu".

People from Peru, the Philippines and several American cities, counties and states are also seeking to hold oil, gas and coal companies accountable over climate change, but Vanuatu could be the first nation state to do so.