The IPCC report cites state-of-the-art science that could support legal demands on companies and governments to reduce emissions, go beyond net-zero reductions and compensate climate disaster victims. Even poor nations and small island developing states being inundated by rising sea levels could pursue wealthy emitting countries under state-to-state dispute mechanisms through entities such as the International Court of Justice.


What kind of compensation can small island states demand from other countries for damages caused by climate changes? I am wondering if the damages that can be asked is the same for all countries, because some countries doesn't seem to abide by the International Court of Justice like Russia, the United States and China. Is there any mechanism that normalizes it for all countries, or not?

  • I think the answer insofar is "none" but it would be interesting to hear otherwise. Sep 7, 2021 at 1:26

1 Answer 1


Only claims that the compensating states choose to recognize under their domestic law would provide relief.

Like most cases of "international law", there aren't binding rules.

Realistically, the likelihood of a domestic court holding a company or country liable for the impact of climate change on a small island country is remote, no matter how precise and definitive a scientific report could be. David Suzuki, the author of the article, is optimistically dreaming of a world more ideal than reality.

In practice, rulings of the International Court of Justice are enforceable only when all parties agree to be bound by its rulings, and such cases are the exception rather than the rule. Most often it is resorted to as a mutually agreed arbitrator of technical boundary disputes, and even then compliance is hardly perfect.

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