Small islands seek UN sea court’s opinion on climate change

Dec 12, 2022, 1:02 AM | Updated: 3:13 pm

BERLIN (AP) — The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea said Monday that small island states have asked it to provide an opinion on what impact a key U.N. treaty governing maritime activities has on efforts to curb climate change — guidance that could have far-reaching legal implications.

The Hamburg-based U.N. tribunal said it received a request from the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law to render an advisory opinion on the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Specifically, the commission — backed by the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda and the Pacific island country of Tuvalu — wants the U.N. court to outline what obligations parties to the treaty have in relation to the effects of climate change caused by human activity, and on protecting the marine environment from ocean warming and sea level rise.

Small island states are among the most vulnerable nations to climate change.

The tribunal said it has added the request to its list of cases.

While it isn’t clear whether or when an advisory opinion could eventually be issued, if the tribunal does provide the treaty’s 168 parties with legal guidance on the issue of climate change it could trigger further cases.

So far, 168 countries including China, India, Russia and the European Union are parties to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. The United States, which is the world’s biggest historic emitter of greenhouse gas, is not a party.

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Small islands seek UN sea court’s opinion on climate change