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ITLOS cites 2016 arbitral ruling in advisory opinion on climate change

MANILA: The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has issued its long-awaited advisory opinion on climate change and agreed that greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) constitute marine pollution.

The global ocean court on May 21 determined that the 169 states parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) have the ‘specific obligations’ to prevent, reduce and control marine pollution from anthropogenic GHG emissions.

In key parts of the advisory opinion, ITLOS cited as authoritative the Arbitral Tribunal’s 2016 ruling on the South China Sea (SCS).

At least 26 states or groups of states also referenced to the award as legal authority in their respective oral and written statements during the ITLOS proceedings.

‘This bolsters and reinforces the legitimacy of the final and binding 2016 Arbitration Award, and its unassailable status as part of the corpus of international law. The Philippines therefore takes this opportunity to reiterate its continuing call for full compliance
with the Award,’ the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement dated May 25.

The ITLOS highlighted the obligation of states to conduct environmental impact assessments to ensure activities do not harm the marine environment as it referenced to the South China Sea ruling’s explanation of ‘general obligation.’

The 2016 Arbitral Award stated that ‘the corpus of international law relating to the environment, which informs the content of the general obligation in (UNCLOS) Article 192, requires that States ensure that activities within their jurisdiction and control respect the environment of other States or of areas beyond national control.”.

‘Thus, States have a positive ‘duty to prevent, or at least mitigate’ significant harm to the environment when pursuing large-scale construction activities,’ it further read.

READ: PH backs move to interpret UNCLOS for climate protection

The DFA said the Philippines will study the ITLOS advisory opinion and its implications for the country and other states
parties to UNCLOS, particularly on the duty to protect and preserve the marine environment in the context of greenhouse gas emissions, climate change impacts, and ocean acidification.

‘The Philippines recognizes that advisory opinions are significant contributions to the clarification and development of international law,’ it said.

‘The Philippines reiterates the rule of law ensures equity in the global commons and a fair, just, and peaceful multilateral world order,’ it added.

The Philippines, as a State Party to UNCLOS, participated in the proceedings by delivering an oral statement during the public hearing on Sept. 19, 2023.

The case was brought by the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (COSIS) last December 2022, asking the UN court to determine the specific duties of states parties to the UNCLOS in preventing the pollution of the marine environment caused by climate change through the accumulation of anthropogenic GHG.

Source: Philippines News Agency