The title originally chosen for the invitation to the third Hamburg International Environmental Law Conference (
Quite obviously, “sea change” is used as an emblematic idiom for a profound transformation of something into something else. To discuss such a profound transformation in the way humankind makes sustainable use of maritime resources, reconciles economical with ecological interests and treats the oceans as truly its common heritage, can indeed be seen as an ambitious endeavour of Shakespearian dimensions. As Vladimir V. Golitsyn, President of the Hamburg based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (
The landmark Paris climate conference of November/December 2015 displayed political will of the more idealistic kind. Following the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, 195 States ultimately adopted what could be described as the second global climate deal being legally binding in its application and universal in its regulatory aims. The
With regard to marine energy generation, these wider horizons were first substantiated by Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli, who provided a global perspective on sustainable production of offshore renewable energy, followed by Henning Jessen’s comment on the same topic. G. Goettsche-Wanli called for an “enabling legal environment” and foresaw effective offshore energy governance based on cross-sectoral collaboration as well as stakeholder participation. H. Jessen agreed to the necessity of an integrated, interdisciplinary and intersectoral approach. He reminded the States of their responsibilities by referring to them as “stewards of the global marine environment”. Jessen’s metaphor recalls – maybe not accidentally – Eyal Benvenisti’s notion of “Sovereigns as Trustees of Humanity” when analysing the “Accountability of States to Foreign Stakeholders” (in:
How difficult it still is to establish an overall legal framework for the sustainable use of marine genetic resources became quite clear when Rüdiger Wolfrum shared his reflections on the “Realization of Sustainable Management/Development under the Law of the Sea Convention?” – a Convention that has been labelled by the President of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea, Tommy Koh, as the “Constitution for the oceans”. Wolfrum emphasised that the principle of sustainability became “the leitmotiv of international environmental law” and endorsed the idea “that natural resources are managed in a way that they may benefit future generations” as well-established in international law and continuing to gain further ground. A more particular perspective was taken by David Kenneth Leary who discussed “International Environmental Law, Sustainable Generation of Energy from the Ocean and Small Island Developing States in the Pacific”. Yoshifumi Tanaka and David Freestone finally developed paths towards a “Sustainable Management of Marine Natural Resources”. Such a sustainability approach ought to take into account social development, economic growth and environmental protection, with particular emphasis on the needs and interests of future generations. The transformation of efficient exploitation into sustainable exploitation is thus inevitable.
It is not the intention of this foreword to comprehensively summarize the conference’s topics and to comment on every single submission of our esteemed authors. They speak for themselves. That said, it shall be highlighted here that the two above-mentioned keynotes and the relevant comments opened the floor for discussions on specific fields of application of sustainable ocean resource governance. In addition to marine energy generation, they encompass deep sea mining, as well as submarine cable systems. Concerning deep sea mining, while advocates believe that the future of mining lies at the bottom of the seas, opponents fear that industry-driven interests will do anything but provide adequate solutions to the urgent ocean sustainability challenges. The relatively new technique of “deep sea mining” indeed raises concerns regarding its potential impact on marine and coastal ecosystems. Since the complete consequences of full-scale mining operations are still subject to scientific uncertainty and further research is therefore necessary to fully understand all potential risks, the law governing this field has to qualify as a blueprint for effective risk management. The same holds true for providing legal instruments governing the development and protection of submarine cable systems. The deep seabed, being mankind’s common heritage, forms the habitat for the world’s underwater networks which needs to be governed by law. We greatly appreciate the most insightful contributions by Douglas R. Burnett, Edwin Egede, Pablo Ferrara, and Keyuan Zou on these issues. They also address questions of liability and responsibility, situating their arguments in the overall framework of the “common heritage of mankind”. The views expressed in all articles are those of the authors and should not be taken as reflecting in any way the policies or views of the institutions they are representing.
To conclude, it was a great pleasure for us to host
We would like to thank all who helped to make
- the City of Hamburg and First Mayor Olaf Scholz for enabling Internationaler Umweltrechtstag Hamburg e.V. to organise the conference,
- all our sponsors for their generous support,
- Christina Simmig and her student assistant Julia Bialek for the extraordinary job they did in managing the event; C. Simmig has been supporting the conference from preparation until publishing this 3rd
hielc-volume and has been a reliable contact person for nearly everyone and every problem,
- Michél Hennig from moodstyler for layout and corporate design as well as operating www.hielc.org,
- our speakers, discussants, and the audience from all over the world for joining the conference,
- Pia Brandt, Eva Maria Bredler, Imke Frisch, Philip Heimann, Sebastian von Massow and Alexander Stark for doing tremendous editorial work to make this volume possible,
- Marie Sheldon and John Bennett at Brill Publishing for their commitment to working with us to present this volume to a worldwide scientific community,
- and last but not least the members of the board of the Internationaler Umweltrechtstag Hamburg e.V.
A “sea change” – did it already happen? Is it in a continuous process of happen? Will it ever happen? We invite you to study this volume – not to get final answers but to find inspiring ideas on some of the most topical issues of sustainable ocean governance.
Markus Kotzur, Nele Matz-Lück and Alexander Proelss
(Scientific Advisory Board of