Addressing the Law of the Sea Challenges of Sea-Level Rise

The Society's 114th Annual Meeting—and first Virtual Annual Meeting—took place June 25–26, 2020. The 2020 Annual Meeting theme, "The Promise of International Law," was an opportunity to reflect on the successes and failures of international law, while reaffirming our commitment to achieving its promise of a more just and peaceful world.

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Sea-level rise is accelerating globally. Small island States are particularly affected by sea level rise, as are other coastal States. In light of this situation, serious legal questions arise in relation to the law of the sea. What does the UN Law of the Sea Convention (LOSC) provide or fail to provide concerning baselines from which maritime zones are measured when these are affected by sea level rise? Should they remain fixed or be changed to reflect new realities? Is there State practice, and if so what direction is it taking? What are the main legal and practical concerns about fixing or changing baselines? How does sea level rise affect the determination of islands/rocks/low tide elevations, and what is the direction of State practice? Are there legal implications of sea level rise for boundary delimitation, and differences in terms of agreed boundaries, as opposed to undelimited areas? What are the dispute settlement options under LOSC in relation to sea level rise?

Filimon Manoni, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
Nilufer Oral, Centre for International Law, NUS Singapore
Alfred Soons, Utrecht University
Patrícia Galvão Teles, Autonomous University of Lisbon (Moderator)
Rüdiger Wolfrum, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law & Int’l Law

(Speaker organizations are shown as of June 2020)