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A Voice for our Ocean

STATEMENT: “A historic victory for the ocean, small island states, and science”

Read Ocean Conservancy’s statement from Dr. Sarah Cooley on today’s historic climate judgment from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, in a historic judgment, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) unanimously ruled that countries that are Parties to the UN Coordinated Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) have specific obligations to prevent, reduce, and control marine pollution from greenhouse gas emissions and to assist developing states to do the same. This complements countries’ commitments under the Paris Agreement to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. The case was led by the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (COSIS) , which represents small island nations most impacted by climate change. Dr. Sarah Cooley, Ocean Conservancy’s senior director of climate science, provided expert testimony for the trial last year and released the following statement in response to the ruling:

“Today’s judgment from ITLOS is a massive victory for our ocean, communities impacted by climate change, and science in general. 

“This is a historic example of science being used to inform policy: the Tribunal’s judgment takes climate science as fact and views the IPCC’s reports as authoritative statements of what we know, which is that current commitments to keep planetary warming below a 1.5-degree threshold are not enough. The Tribunal’s statement explains that it considers heat and carbon dioxide entering the ocean from human activity to be marine pollution; and as a result, states are obligated to monitor climate change impacts, share that information, and coordinate with one another.

“I was tremendously honored to provide expert testimony to the Tribunal last fall, and I am thrilled that the Tribunal applied the best available science to help make their decision. This would not have been possible without the tireless work from the leaders from small island states, where the impacts of climate change are most acutely being felt, despite these states contributing the least to the problem. 

“I hope that this ushers in a new era of swift climate action backed by the best available evidence – it’s what our ocean needs.”


A press release from COSIS can be found here.

Dr. Cooley is available for comment.

About Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit or follow us on FacebookX (formerly Twitter), or Instagram.

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