International Law and Sea Level Rise

Report of the International Law Association Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise

in International Law and Sea Level Rise

Abstract

This issue contains the final version of the 2018 Report of the International Law Association (ILA) Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise, as well as the related ILA Resolutions 5/2018 and 6/2018, both as adopted by the ILA at its 78th Biennial Conference, held in Sydney, Australia, 19–24 August 2018.

In Part I of the Report, key information about the establishment of the Committee, its mandate and its work so far is presented. Also, the background for the establishment of the Committee is explained, drawing on: (a) conclusions of the ILA Committee on Baselines and the related ILA Resolution 1/2012; (b) scientific assessments, such as by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), regarding on-going sea level change and projections of future rise; and (c) more broadly, scientific findings regarding the profound changes taking place in the Earth system since the mid-20th century and predictions for their acceleration in the course of the 21st century. All of this has prompted the need, and provided the Committee with the relevant context, for the study of the options and elaboration of proposals for the development of international law.

Part II of the Report addresses key law of the sea issues through a study of possible impacts of sea level rise and their implications under international law regarding maritime limits lawfully determined by the coastal States, and the agreed or adjudicated maritime boundaries. This includes the study of the effects of sea level rise on the limits of maritime zones, and the analysis of the subsequently emerging State practice regarding the maintenance of their existing lawful maritime entitlements. The guiding consideration in developing the proposals and recommendations by the Committee for the interpretation and development of international law regarding the maritime limits and boundaries impacted by sea level rise has been the need to avoid uncertainty and, ultimately, facilitate orderly relations between States and contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security. A related ILA Resolution 5/2018 addresses maritime limits and boundaries impacted by sea level rise.

Part III of the Report addresses international law provisions, principles and frameworks for the protection of persons displaced in the context of sea level rise. The notion of ‘human mobility’ is used as an umbrella term that refers to all relevant forms of the movement of persons and, in the context of this report, covers displacement (which is forced), migration (which is predominantly voluntary), planned relocation and evacuations (which both may be forced or voluntary). This part of the report takes the form of principles entitled the ‘Sydney Declaration of Principles on the Protection of Persons Displaced in the Context of Sea Level Rise’ with commentaries. Accordingly, ILA Resolution 6/2018, which also contains the Sydney Declaration of Principles, addresses the protection of persons displaced in the context of sea level rise and contains recommendations by the Committee to this effect.

International Law and Sea Level Rise

Report of the International Law Association Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise

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