Ratifying UNCLOS would not subject U.S. to increased environmental liability or act as a back door for the Kyoto agreement
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Environmental Obligations/Environmental Disputes. Some have argued that the Convention might obligate the U.S. to comply with international environmental agreements (such as the Kyoto Protocol) to which the U.S. is not a party, or subject the U.S. to mandatory dispute resolution for marine pollution (such as atmospheric pollution or pollution from land-based sources). I share the concerns of some critics of the Convention about the goals of some groups to embroil the U.S. in international litigation. As the State Department Legal Adviser during the Bush Administration, I witnessed first-hand the efforts of many groups hostile to U.S. counter-terrorism actions to wage “lawfare” against the United States. In my view, however, joining the Law of the Sea Convention does not subject the United States to significant new legal risks, especially when compared to the benefits of joining the Convention.
The terms of the Convention do not require Parties to comply with other international environmental treaties. With respect to land-based sources and pollution through the atmosphere, Part XII, Section 5 of the Convention requires Parties at most to adopt laws and regulations to prevent, reduce and control marine pollution, but in doing so, parties are required only to “tak[e] into account internationally agreed rules, standards and recommended practices and procedures.” This does not impose an obligation to comply with Kyoto or any other environmental treaty or standard, including treaties to which the U.S. is not a party.
In addition, the U.S. would not be subject to dispute resolution for allegedly violating the Kyoto protocol or any other environmental treaty, including agreements governing pollution from land-based sources. The Convention’s dispute settlement system applies only to disputes “concerning the interpretation or application” of the Convention itself, not to the alleged violation of other treaties. Articles 297 and 298 of the Convention further exclude certain potentially sensitive disputes from dispute settlement.