At the United Nations in New York, more than 130 member states have voted for the International Court of Justice to rule on the “obligations of states” to protect the climate “for present and future generations”.

The resolution, which has been around for years, was proposed by the small Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.

This means that the world’s highest court will now clarify what countries must do legally to defend the environment from climate damage.

However, the resolution is non-binding, meaning there is no need for any state to comply with any clarifications if it chooses not to.

“For some countries, climate threats are a death sentence. Indeed, it is the initiative of these countries, along with so many others – along with the efforts of young people all over the world – that brings us together. And together you are making history,” said the UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a speech to the General Assembly.

A week ago, UN climate experts warned that global warming will increase by one and a half degrees by 2030-2035.

The 2015 Paris Agreement – ​​which is legally binding – set the long-term goal of keeping warming to no more than two degrees by the end of this century.

A lawyer for ClientEarth, an organization working to legally strengthen the fight against global warming, gave her reaction.

“International courts and tribunals are increasingly being called upon to clarify and define the law around global efforts to combat the climate crisis – and for good reason,” said Lea Main-Klingst.

“International law is an important tool for shaping the fight against climate change – and we have not yet seen its full force. Advisory opinions like this have the potential to clarify states’ legal obligations on one of the most pressing issues of our time—and can guide future climate action. This is an important step forward in climate legislation.”