LCIL Friday Lecture: 'Climate change and the law of the sea: A test for international law' - Dr Nilufer Oral, Director of the Centre for International Law - NUS


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Lecture summary: Recent scientific information presents an alarming diagnosis of the multiple adverse consequences of climate change on the ocean: levels of ocean acidification not seen in millions of years, changes in ocean chemistry, warming temperatures and deoxygenation threating marine life, in particular coral reefs; and rapidly melting glaciers and ice sheets challenging the survival of some island States and threatening existing maritime boundaries and entitlements. There are two different applicable international regimes, one for the ocean and the other for climate change. Yet neither has a clear mandate for the ocean-climate nexus. The 1982 United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea, often referred to as the Constitution for the oceans, negotiated before climate change emerged on the international agenda, makes no reference to climate change. The 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, with a clear mandate for atmospheric climate change, limits the role of the ocean to serving as sink or reservoir for greenhouse gases. The 2015 Paris Agreement added little more other than a preambular reference to ocean ecosystems. The lecture will examine whether and how these two principal legal regimes can meet the test for international law in providing a dialectic and evolutive response to the pressing challenges of the climate-ocean nexus. Nilüfer Oral is Director of the Centre of International Law (CIL) at the National University of Singapore and a member of the law faculty at Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey. She is member of the UN International Law Commission and co-chair of the study group on sea-level rise in relation to international law. She served as climate change negotiator for the Turkish Ministry (2009 – 2016). She has also appeared before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Nilufer Oral is a Distinguished Fellow of the Law of the Sea Institute at Berkeley Law (University of California Law Berkeley); Senior Fellow of the National University of Singapore Law School; and Honorary Research Fellow at University of Dundee. Dr. Oral was elected to the Council of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (2012-2016) and served as Chair of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law (2014-2017). She is currently a member of the Steering Committee of the World Commission on Environmental Law. Dr Oral is the series editor for the International Straits of the World publications (Brill); member of the Board of Editors of the European Society of International Law Series; Board of Editors of the International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law; Associate Editor of the Research Perspectives in the Law of the Sea (Brill); and International Advisory Board, Chinese Journal of Environmental Law (Brill) She has published numerous articles edited several books, and has spoken at many international conferences.

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