AFTER a call by small islands for climate justice, Sir Ronald Sanders, the ambassador for Antigua and Barbuda to the United States and the Organization of American States, has warned that the islands face “a real and present threat” to their existence – and The Bahamas has joined a commission to tackle the issue.
Sir Ronald, a columnist in The Tribune’s Insight section, said that major polluters have shown “a staggering lack of political will to remedy their actions”.
This comes after Antigua and Barbuda was joined by the Pacific island state of Tuvalue to form an inter-governmental organisation that would use the international legal system to seek justice for the impact of climate change.
Sir Ronald said that the Prime Minister of each nation was “frustrated by the lip service being paid by the world’s major contributors to climate change, and the broken promises of every previous COP meetings, decided that they would seek an Advisory Opinion from the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS)”.
He said: “Consequently, they launched the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (COSIS). They were subsequently joined by several other small states, including The Bahamas, St Lucia, St Kitts-Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean and by Vanuatu, Palau and Niue.”
ITLOS has agreed to a full hearing of the case with the first session to be held in Hamburg today.
Sir Ronald said: “What each of these small islands faces is a real and present threat to their existence.
“Let’s put into perspective the level of existential threat we’re talking about.
“We are looking at the potential disappearance of nations — entire cultures and histories wiped out due to climate change.
“This is not mere theory; the science is clear and irrefutable.”
The decision to take the case to ITLOS hinges on the ocean being a vital carbon sink. Sir Ronald said: ITLOS, the guardian of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, is the natural venue to seek legal clarity on the obligations of states to protect our marine environment.”
He added: “We are at a fork in the road of human history.
“On one hand, inaction and the continuation of empty promises, leading to existential loss for small island states.
“On the other, immediate, effective action informed by international law.”