ITLOS Advisory Opinion On Climate Change

Alpha Sesay Esq., Deputy Minister of Justice of Sierra Leone

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has issued a historic advisory opinion today unanimously affirming that States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea “have the specific obligations to take all necessary measures to prevent, reduce and control marine pollution…” in the Request for an Advisory Opinion submitted by the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (Request for Advisory Opinion submitted to the Tribunal).

The Tribunal also affirmed that “under article 202 of the Convention, States Parties have the specific obligation to assist developing States, in particular vulnerable developing States, in their efforts to address marine pollution from anthropogenic GHG emissions. This article provides for the obligation of appropriate assistance, directly or through competent international organizations, in terms of capacity-building, scientific expertise, technology transfer and other matters. Article 203 reinforces the support to developing States, in particular those vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, by granting them preferential treatment in funding, technical assistance and pertinent specialized services from international organizations”.

Alpha Sesay Esq., Deputy Minister of Justice of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone made a written submission in the proceedings and was represented in the oral hearings by Alpha Sesay Esq., Deputy Minister of Justice of Sierra Leone; Mr. Dire D. Tladi, Professor, University of Pretoria (then), now Judge of the International Court of Justice, former Member, Special Rapporteur and Chair, International Law Commission; Mr. Charles C. Jalloh, Professor, Florida International University, Member, Special Rapporteur and Second-Vice Chairperson (74th session), International Law Commission; and Ms. Christina Hioureas, Partner, Foley Hoag LLP

Sierra Leone actively participated in the proceedings given its historic importance and known vulnerability. “Sierra Leone is among the lowest contributors of greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions responsible for human-induced climate change. Yet despite contributing the least to climate change, African countries, including Sierra Leone, have been disproportionately impacted by the deleterious effects of climate change and remain among the most vulnerable to its emerging and continued impacts”.

“Developing countries are already ten times more likely to be affected by a climate disaster, as compared to developed countries. For Sierra Leone, this risk may be even higher due to its particular geography as a low-lying coastal State. In Sierra Leone, sea level rise has caused significant challenges to the livelihoods of coastal inhabitants. Coastal erosion is taking place in some of its coastal areas, resulting in a shifting of the coastline by about four to six meters per year”.

Read full advisory opinion:

Read Sierra Leone written statement:

Further information:

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