The Pacific Islands Forum Chair and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown has welcomed a significant development from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

The tribunal recently issued an Advisory Opinion requested by the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law.

“The Pacific Islands Forum commends ITLOS for this historic Advisory Opinion,” Brown stated.

“We congratulate all who contributed to this major milestone, including Forum Members that spearheaded the initiative.”

Brown emphasiSed the deep connection between Pacific Islanders and the ocean, saying, “As custodians of the Blue Pacific Ocean, the ocean is a significant part of our identity and way of life. Our people depend on the ocean for survival, livelihood, and national development.”

However, he highlighted the severe threat posed by climate change.

“Despite our inextricable link to the ocean, climate change presents the single greatest threat to our Blue Pacific. Ocean warming, sea level rise, and ocean acidification caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions continue to affect our region.”

The 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent outlines the region’s strategic vision, addressing climate change and disasters as key areas.

Brown noted that “the ITLOS Advisory Opinion is a significant milestone. It provides much-needed clarity and support to the work of international organisations like the International Law Commission, with which our region is heavily engaged.”

A crucial aspect of the ITLOS Advisory Opinion is its confirmation that anthropogenic GHG emissions into the atmosphere constitute ‘pollution of the marine environment.’
Brown stated, “To this end, all relevant and specific legal obligations under UNCLOS can now be applied to anthropogenic GHG emissions.”

Brown pointed out the responsibilities highlighted by the Advisory Opinion.

“The Advisory Opinion underscores the critical responsibility of States Parties in mitigating pollution of the marine environment. It affirms that the calamitous impacts of climate change, driven by human activities, necessitate immediate and sustained action from all States.”

He called for robust international cooperation.

“The ITLOS Advisory Opinion amplifies the call that all States must implement effective measures to prevent, reduce, and control marine pollution from anthropogenic GHG emissions. It highlights the duty to cooperate and emphasises the interconnectedness of global efforts to combat climate change and protect marine ecosystems.”

Brown concluded by urging decisive action.

“As we move forward, this Advisory Opinion will serve as a guiding landmark for our collective efforts. It is a call to action for all States to intensify their commitments under UNCLOS and other relevant international agreements to ensure a sustainable and resilient future for our oceans and the communities that depend on them.”

He reaffirmed the region’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

“As a Forum family of nations, we will continue to champion sustainable development practices. We urge all State Parties to heed the ITLOS Advisory Opinion and take decisive actions to safeguard the health of our oceans for generations to come,” said PM Brown.