The United Nations General Assembly voted last month to engage the International Court of Justice at The Hague in weighing in on the responsibility of high-emitting countries to engage in actions to address climate change. The resolution was sponsored by Vanuatu, one of the small island states most threatened by global heating and sea level rise. With net zero carbon emissions, Vanuatu is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries; over ¼ of its population will be impacted by rising sea levels.

Over the past 30 years, the tiny nation of Vanuatu has emerged as a leader in advocating for climate justice. In 1991, it was the first nation to call for “loss and damage” to be incorporated within the UNFCCC negotiating text, a proposal that was finally realized last year at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Loss and damage would assist vulnerable nations that are disproportionally impacted by the devastating impacts of climate change.

“The fund is an essential part of building back trust after 30 years of failed acknowledgement of the need for finance specifically allocated to address loss and damage resulting from unmitigated emissions and inadequate adaptation support,” Vanuatu’s lead climate negotiator Christopher Bartlett said.

Although the ruling of the International Court of Justice would not be binding, it could be cited in climate change-related court cases around the world, Axios reports.

“Together, you are making history,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, emphasizing that even though non binding, the ruling of the International Court of Justice “would assist the General Assembly, the UN and member states to take the bolder and stronger climate action that our world so desperately needs.”

The resolution was co-sponsored by over 130 member states.