The Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) and Urban Coast Institute (ICU) hosted a panel discussion of international experts’ examination on governance of marine shipping and maritime sovereignty within the context of climate change on Friday, Feb. 19. This event is one of several talks in the IGU-UCI’s Global Ocean Governance Lecture Series— a project that has worked to assemble professionals of different specialties to discuss issues focused around coastal and marine ecosystems.
Three featured guest speakers gave separate and detailed lectures on distinct realms of maritime sovereignty, the study of states extending their territorial boundaries, and thereby responsibilities, to the waters surrounding them. Randall Abate, J.D., Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy and Professor in the Department of Political Science and Sociology mediated the lectures, facilitating dialogue between the panelists.
Abate has delivered several lectures on climate justice and animal law at law schools around the world, including Oxford and the University of Melbourne.
Before presenting the lecturers for this event, Abate gave the floor to Director of the UCI, Tony MacDonald, J.D., for his opening remarks for the panel discussion.
“As a result of our efforts to connect with those around the globe, we can take an accurate look at the trust resources that we all share,” said MacDonald.
The first lecture was given by Beatriz Martinez Romera, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental and Climate Change law at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark). Romera’s lecture was focused on how the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) regime, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and the European Union (EU) have failed to take years’ worth of opportunities to regulate maritime shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions.
According to her presentation, shipping accounts for about 3 percent of the global total GHG emissions and is expected to exponentially and dangerously grow by 2050— a prediction cited directly from the IMO.
She explained it has taken years of numerous treaties and conventions as a result of nations voicing their opinions to expose the environmental challenges these ecosystems face, yet real change is lacking.
“The Paris Agreement was a missed opportunity to clarify fundamental aspects hindering the regulation of shipping emissions because of conflicting objectives, principles, and preferences for regulatory instruments,” stated Romera.
“There are aspects of the 2015 Paris Agreement that highlight the lack of tools to deal with international shipping.”
Nonetheless, Romera mentioned how the forum is shifting post-Paris to strengthen and increase unilateral action so as to drastically reduce emissions and embolden the vision for decarbonization.
Following Romera’s presentation was Samira Idllalene, Ph.D., Professor of Law at Caddi Ayyad University (Morocco). Her lecture explored how the atmospheric Waqf principle in Muslim countries promotes nature’s trust in the marine environment.
Idllalene continued from Romera’s established legal perspective, stating that “Marine environmental law is a technical aspect of law; however, the bottom line of any environmental issue is the ethics, what all statutes share and derive their purpose.”
The atmospheric principle, referred to as Waqf, has its connections to Sharia within the Muslim world, which is known as Islamic canonical law. Idllalene underscored that this principle has direct ties to environmental law and climate change.
“Waqf is an ancestral institution that has fallen into disuse, largely purposed for building mosques and schools, unrelated to its ecological roots.”
“It is essential to revitalize the Waqf principle so as to reintroduce the importance of environmental law and change in the Muslim world,” said Idllalene.
As highlighted by Idllalene at the end of her presentation, the promise is in the smaller, grassroots environmental firms that are paving the way for a more uniform adoption of the Atmospheric Waqf.
The last panelist to lecture during this event was Joanna Siekiera, Ph.D., an international lawyer and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Bergen (Norway). Siekiera specializes in legal and political relations in the South Pacific, concentrating on rising sea levels.
Siekiera revisited the notion of maritime sovereignty in regard to pacific islands, specifically considering legal dilemma of islands that are categorized as entities, not sovereign states.
“We all know that this problem of seal levels rising is not a new phenomenon; rather, it is a problem that has continued to progress for some decades,” stated Siekiera.
“With that considered, countries, for the first time last year, decided to issue a non-legally binding paper that does not necessarily examine the legal threats to offshore entities (islands and coastal lands), but instead analyzes the implications of existing state practices.”
According to Siekiera, the aim of all states is to secure peace and stability, yet there are states that will not concern themselves with sinking islands. Nevertheless, there are regional practices, as presented in South America, that if implemented by other entities, could help reduce this ever-evolving problem.
Abate emphasize this concluding point, stating that “sea level rise threatens developed countries, too, especially with respect to national security concerns. Perhaps this dimension needs to be emphasized for increased engagement on sea level rise adaptation in the developed world.”
Upon the lecturers finishing their presentations, Abate concluded, “these are all very interesting observations that have brought to light perspectives I, and am sure many, have not yet thought about.”
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