Home News Top ocean court says countries must reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Top ocean court says countries must reduce greenhouse gas emissions


The world’s top court on ocean affairs said on Tuesday that excess greenhouse gases are pollutants that can cause irreversible damage to the marine environment.Groundbreaking advisory opinion It was passed unanimously, and experts say it could lead to broader damages claims against polluting countries.

the opinion of the court, international tribunal for the law of the seais not binding, but it says that legally, countries must take all necessary measures to reduce, control and prevent marine pollution caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Given the expertise of the court, sometimes called the Court of the Sea, the opinion could influence how other international and national courts address the growing dangers posed by greenhouse gases that are heating and acidifying the oceans.

As the world warms, oceans are absorbing a lot of excess heat, and it’s possible change ocean currents and marine ecosystems and contribute to coral bleaching, and other dangers.Acidification, which is also Harmful to marine life When seawater absorbs carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for warming the world, it changes the ocean food web.

The request for the advisory opinion was filed by a group of small island nations already suffering from rising sea levels. The court’s opinion applies to the more than 165 countries that have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, including big polluters such as China, Russia and India, but not the United States.

The 21-justice opinion on Tuesday effectively expanded the definition of ocean pollution to include greenhouse gases. The convention, negotiated in the 1970s, makes no mention of these emissions and their adverse effects on the world’s oceans, which are based on the latest science.

“We don’t know how bad these emissions were in the 1970s,” said David Freestone, co-author of the book. 2023 World Bank Report Who followed the court hearings and debates on the legal aspects of sea level rise. “At the time, people were worried about acid rain.”

The key issue before the court was whether excess greenhouse gases constituted “pollution of the marine environment” – the judges said it did; and whether states could be held liable – again, yes.

The leaders of the island nations who filed the lawsuit argue that existing climate agreements do not make enough progress to prevent lasting damage to the oceans. They say that while they account for only a small fraction of global emissions, they are already bearing the brunt of the catastrophic effects of climate change.

“This is truly an epic David and Goliath battle,” Payam Akhavan, the lead attorney for the group that brought the case, said at a recent news conference. He said some of the world’s smallest countries were invoking the power of international law against major polluters.

China and major oil exporter Saudi Arabia strongly challenged the islands’ claims at hearings in the case last year, saying the court lacked sufficient authority to set new rules. But on Tuesday, a judge said the court did have jurisdiction.

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