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Move to ICJ of Transboundary Harm Was Questioned by US, Grenada Says; No Comment on "Concern" by Rice

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 3 -- With the climate change battle veering into a push for an International Court of Justice advisory opinion on "transboundary harm," largely by Pacific and Caribbean islands, what is the United States' position?

  Palau's President Johnson Toribiong  in September 2011 detailed "three pernicious types of 'transboundary harms' -- the state of the global fisheries; nuclear radiation; and especially climate change. Click here for his speech.

  Inner City Press has been told that when a group of representatives of such island states met with Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN, Rice expressed concern about the push to the ICJ, which the islands say is a matter of the "rule of law."

  Grenada's articulate Ambassador to the UN Dessima Williams on Friday told Inner City Press that after the islands' meeting with Rice, which she did not attend, Grenada received a "demarche" from the US asking questions about the proposal.

  She and Palau's President Toribiong and UN Ambassador Stuart Beck all said the goal is to work in collaboration with the big polluters. But how will this work?

  Inner City Press asked the US Mission to the UN a few questions, for example to simply confirm that Rice met with a group of other Permanent Representatives and expressed concern about their plan to take the Transboundary Harm issue to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion, and that US State Department sent a communication to Grenada asking questions about the push to take the Transboundary Harm issue to the ICJ.

  The US Mission to the UN through its spokesman responded, "No comment- especially on private diplomatic discussions."

The panel at UN Feb 4: Palau, Grenada, DPI; Ambassador Rice not shown

  So what is the US' position on Transboundary Harm? In fairness, Palau's Permanent Representative quoted Rice as having called the failure to address climate change "pathetic," in connection with a UN Security Council debate on climate change.

  Inner City Press asked Palau's representative Stuart Beck, an able New York lawyer, about what some call a split in the developing world groupings at the UN about whether climate change should be pursued through the Security Council, where the US and others have veto power, or the General Assembly where they don't.

  Beck said the strategy is to get the General Assembly to request the advisory opinion.

   There is a growing group of lawyers working on the proposal, including longtime environmental and administrative law expert Michael Gerard, known as "Mister Environmental Impact Statement," conferring only by e-mail to save costs. "E-mails against the Empire," one wag dubbed it. How will it work? Watch this site.

Footnote: many of the Permanent Representative who have previously spoken of their encounter with US Ambassador Rice are, as of this writing, in Australia hearing first hand that country's case to be voted onto the UN Security Council next year. For this travel, are there carbon offsets? We'll see.

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Click here for Sept 23, '11 about UN General Assembly

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

Click here for Sept 26, 2011 New Yorker on Inner City Press at UN

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