Nine small island nations have turned to a Germany-based tribunal to clarify governments’ responsibilities to reduce pollution from greenhouse gases and protect the oceans in a case that lawyers spearheading the legal effort say could have far-reaching repercussions.

Hearings in the case will begin in Hamburg, where the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is based, on Monday morning. The Hamburg tribunal settles disputes related to the interpretation and application of the 1982 Law of the Sea, the U.N. convention that governs the world’s seas and oceans.