Clarifying States’ duties to protect the ocean from climate change impacts, through a human rights lens


5 September 2023, 3-4.30 pm (BST)

Register here

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) has been requested to clarify what States need to do (and do better) to effectively mitigate climate change and prevent further negative impacts on the ocean.  To support ITLOS deliberations and the work of the many experts involved in the process, the One Ocean Hub,  Greenpeace International, the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), ClientEarth, and Opportunity Green are organising a webinar to discuss the key points raised in their respective written submissions to ITLOS, in particular the relevance of international human rights law and international biodiversity law (and biodiversity science) to interpret States’ obligations to protect the marine environment from the effects of climate change.

We look forward to engaging with the legal and scientific experts that have prepared other written submissions to ITLOS, or that will otherwise be involved in the subsequent phases of these proceedings. We also look forward to exchanging ideas with climate, ocean and human rights experts that work at the national level on the ocean-climate nexus. The different presentations will summarise the central arguments made by each organisation, as well as reflect on the legal arguments made by States and other organisations in their written submissions, and engage with questions from the audience about further developing or potential challenges to the arguments based on international human rights law and international biodiversity law.

Background: ITLOS is an independent judicial body with jurisdiction over any dispute concerning the interpretation or application of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and over all matters specifically provided for in any other agreement which confers jurisdiction on the Tribunal. The ITLOS has agreed to respond to a request from the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law for an advisory opinion related to States’ obligations to protect the marine environment from the effects of climate change. ITLOS has been asked to address two questions: what are the specific obligations of UNCLOS State Parties : (a) to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment in relation to the deleterious effects resulting from climate change and (b) to protect and preserve the marine environment in relation to climate change impacts, including ocean warming and sea level rise, and ocean acidification. The hearing is scheduled to open on Monday 11 September 2023 in Hamburg, Germany.


Dr Mitchell Lennan, University of Aberdeen, One Ocean Hub – The role of fisheries and biodiversity in the ocean-climate nexus

Prof Elisa Morgera, University of Strathclyde, One Ocean Hub – Existing and emerging interpretative clarifications under the Convention on Biological Diversity and international human rights law

Sébastien Duyck, Center for International Environmental Law – Beyond UNCLOS: Clarifying States’ international duties to protect the ocean from climate change

David Kay, Opportunity Green – International shipping’s climate impact – the obligation to regulate

Lea Main-Klingst, ClientEarth – The systemic integration of international law and the duty to reflect the best available science

Prof John Knox, International Law at Wake Forest University – former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment.

Dr Ian Fry, UN Special Rapporteur on climate change (video message)


The arguments included in the Hub’s submission were based on Hub research on deep-sea and ocean-climate nexus and, and can be explored in more depths, in these academic publications:

  • Ocean-based Climate Action and Human Rights Implications under the International Climate Change Regime – read here
  • Addressing the Ocean-Climate Nexus in the BBNJ Agreement: Strategic Environmental Assessments, Human Rights and Equity in Ocean Science – read here
  • Introduction: Applying a Human Rights Lens to the Ocean-Climate Nexus – read here
  • International Legal Responses for Protecting Fishers’ Fundamental Rights Impacted by a Changing Ocean – read here
  • Children’s Human Right to Be Heard at the Ocean-climate Nexus – read here
  • Ensuring Mutual Supportiveness of the Paris Agreement with other Multilateral Environmental Agreements: A Focus on Ocean-Based Climate Action – read here
  • Chapter 16: Climate Change and Biodiversity – read here
Links to the respective written submissions of the organisers are listed below:

One Ocean Hub

Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) and Greenpeace International


Opportunity Green


One Ocean Hub, Center for International Environmental Law, ClientEarth and Greenpeace International were recipients of the UN Human Rights Prize 2023.

Artwork by: Margherita Brunori

Related SDGs:

  • No poverty
  • Zero hunger
  • Quality education
  • Gender equality
  • Decent work and economic growth
  • Reduced inequality
  • Climate action
  • Life below water
  • Peace, justice and strong institutions