Some notes on a public lecture given in the United Kingdom Supreme Court on 17 September 2015 by Philippe Sands QC, Professor of Law, University College London.
In his Introduction (PART I), Professor Sands describes how three years ago he didn’t favour a request for an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) about the responsibilities of States under international law regarding the emission of greenhouse gases (“GHG”s).
His view then was thathe thought there was a serious risk that the Court’s opinion might be “unhelpful”: it might, for example, decline to give an opinion at all (implying that international law had nothing to say) or its Opinion might be “unhelpful on the science” or “unhelpful on the law”.
He considered that the possibility that the Court could make a contribution that “might generate a greater political will to action by states” to be “an unlikely prospect”.
In these notes I hope, inter alia, to demonstrate that those concerns are as valid today as they were in 2012.
Although Professor Sands indicated various methods by which the relevant issues might be tested under international law, I will confine my comments to the possibility of this being achieved by means of an Advisory Opinion of the ICJ – the route Professor Sands appears to favour.