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SIMPLIFIER:CLIMATE CHANGE UNDER THE LAW OF THE SEA



  May 30, 2024

SIMPLIFIER:CLIMATE CHANGE UNDER THE LAW OF THE SEA



In a landmark ruling, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has declared that greenhouse gases are considered marine pollution. This judgement mandates countries to take action against climate change to protect the marine environment under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Key Points of the Ruling:

• Climate Change as Pollution: The tribunal confirmed that greenhouse gases meet the definition of “pollution” under UNCLOS, obliging states to prevent, control, and mitigate such pollution.

• Broad Obligations: Countries must take necessary measures, including those underpinned by science and international rules, to address climate change and ocean acidification.

• Not Just UNFCCC: While states can draw on UNFCCC standards, these are not necessarily sufficient to meet UNCLOS obligations.

Background:

The ruling came in response to a request from the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (COSIS). Small island nations, vulnerable to climate impacts like sea-level rise and severe weather, sought clarification on their obligations under UNCLOS.

Implications:

This ruling signifies that nation states have duties beyond existing climate change regimes to reduce emissions and implement adaptation measures. Countries must now consider their obligations under both the law of the sea and international climate agreements when authorizing activities like offshore oil production and adopting climate adaptation measures.



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