Omnia advises Rwanda in landmark climate change proceedings before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
21st June 2023
Omnia acted for the Government of Rwanda in ground-breaking advisory proceedings before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) on States’ obligations in respect of the ocean and climate change.
The ocean is the most important climate regulator on Earth. As a result, Rwanda, like other landlocked developing countries, remains highly vulnerable to the broader effects of climate change on the marine environment, particularly those impacts that contribute to a cycle of climate harm. In Rwanda, this has resulted in increased fatal flooding and devastating wildfires.
This is despite having done little to contribute to today’s climate emergency. Accordingly, alongside the Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law (COSIS), which requested the advisory opinion, and the African Union, Rwanda volunteered detailed submissions to assist ITLOS’s deliberations in this critical case.
Rwanda’s participation is an example of its continuing leadership in environmental matters. At home, it banned plastic bags back in 2008 and all single-use plastics in 2019, and is pursuing a national strategy to achieve development through green technology and sustainable investment. Internationally, Rwanda has co-led (with Peru) efforts to agree a binding global treaty on plastic pollution, facilitated the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol extending regulation of greenhouse gases, and co‑sponsored a UN General Assembly request for an International Court of Justice advisory opinion on States’ obligations in respect of climate change broadly.
Rwanda’s statement to ITLOS was provided on behalf of the Government by Hon Dr Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, Rwanda’s Minister of Justice and Attorney General, coordinated by his Chief Technical Advisor Dr Doris Uwicyeza Picard, and in partnership with the Ministry of Environment.
Rwanda’s international legal team was led by Omnia’s Cherie Blair CBE, KC, with Adam Smith-Anthony, Lauren Lederle, Lodovica Raparelli and Ben Wheadon, in collaboration with Lord Verdirame KC and Simon Olleson of Twenty Essex.
Our full statement is available here