Sea-Level Rise and the Law of the Sea in the Western Pacific Region

Author:Nguyen Hong Thao
Position:Vice Chairman of the United Nations International Law Commission
Pages:121-142
SUMMARY

Sea-level rise (SLR) is considered one of the most serious consequences of climate change. The risk of SLR compels legal consideration of this phenomenon related to many interrelated domains including the Law of the Sea. The Western Pacific region contains the most low-lying coastal countries and small island States seriously affected by SLR in the world. This research has been carried out as a... (see full summary)

 
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Nguyen Hong Thao
Sea-level rise (SLR) is considered one of the most serious consequences of climate
change. The risk of SLR compels legal consideration of this phenomenon related to
many interrelated domains including the Law of the Sea. The Western Pacic region
contains the most low-lying coastal countries and small island States seriously affected
by SLR in the world. This research has been carried out as a contribution paper on the
State practice in the Western Pacic region to the topic of Sea-level rise in relation to
international law conducted by the Study Group of the United Nations International
Law Commission in the period of 2020-2021. It aims to summarize the consequences
of SLR for the Western Pacic States and outline their legal positions in relation to the
sea-level rise. It also discusses specic issues, challenges and opportunities facing the
Western Pacic States in supporting the maintenance of maritime baselines and limits
notwithstanding physical changes caused by SLR.
Keywords
Sea Level Rise, Law of the Sea, Western Pacic, Baseline Limit, Low-lying
Coastal Countries, Small Island States, UNCLOS
Sea-Level Rise and the Law
of the Sea in the Western
Pacic Region
Vice Chairman of the United Nations International Law Commission; Associated Professor of Diplomatic Academy of
Vietnam; Vietnamese Arbitrator under Article 2 of Annes VII to UNCLOS. A.B. (Navy College of Bacu, ex-USSR).
LL.M./ Ph.D.(Paris I-Panteon-Sorbonne). The author may be contacted at: thaonguyenhong57@gmail.com/Address: 69
Chua Lang Str. Hanoi, Vietnam.
All the websites cited in this article were last visited on May 6, 2020.
J. East asia & intl l. Vol. 13/No.1 (2020); 121-142
Publication type : Research Article
Section : Regional Focus & Controversies
DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.14330/jeail.2020.13.1.06
1. Introduction
Sea-level rise (SLR) is considered one of the most serious consequences of climate
change
1
that will occur in the twenty-rst century or even beyond 2100.
2
It heavily
affects the global economy, environment, security and order at sea.
3
The risk of
SLR compels legal consideration of this phenomenon related to the Law of the Sea,
International Law on Statehood, Environmental Law, Human Right Law, Migration
Law and others. It has gradually been claried by studies of the International Law
Association (ILA),
4
the UN International Law Commission (ILC)
5
and other
researchers. Most of them conrm that the main legal implications of SLR concern the
Law of the Sea, in particular, maritime baselines and limits. At a regional level, the
Western Pacic region contains the most low-lying and small island States seriously
affected by SLR in the world.
This research aims to summarize the consequences of SLR for the Western Pacic
States and outline their legal positions in relation to this phenomenon. This paper
consists of four parts including Introduction and Conclusion. Part two will focus on
the impact of SLR and the response of States in the region. Part three will discuss
the legal basis of maintaining maritime baselines and boundaries notwithstanding
physical changes caused by SLR.
1 SLR is estimated in the range of 0.84 m (0.61-1.10 m, likely range) by 2100. See IPCC, 2019: Summary for
PolicymakerS-SPecial rePort on the ocean and cryoSPhere in a changing climate B.3.1, 23 (H.-O. Pörtner, et al.
eds. 2019), available at https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/3/2019/11/SROCC_FinalDraft_FullReport.pdf.
2 IPCC, AR5 Synthesis Report: Climate Change, iPcc.ch (2014), available at https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/syr.
3 R. Nicholls, ‘Case study on sea-level rise impacts,’ OECD Workshop on the Benefits of Climate Policy: Improving
Information for Policy Makers (2003). See M. Hayashi, Sea Level Rise and the Law of the Sea: How can the Affected
States be Better Protected?, in the limitS of maritime JuriSdiction 609-25 (2014); y. Takamura, Climate Change and
Small Island Claims in the Pacific, in climate change: international law and global governance 1. 657-83 (O.
Ruppel et al. eds., 2013).
4 d. Vidas, D. Freestone, & J. McAdam, International Law and Sea Level Rise: Report of the International Law
Association Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise (2019), available at https://www.researchgate.net/
publication/330938568_International_Law_and_Sea_Level_Rise_Report_of_the_International_Law_Association_
Committee_on_International_Law_and_Sea_Level_Rise.
5 ILC, Commentary to Draft Article 3 of the “Protection of Persons in the event of Disasters” Report (Report on the work
of the sixty-eight session), U.N. Doc. A/71/10 (2016), 23, 4; “Sea-level rise in relation to international law” (Report
on the work of the seventh session), U.N. Doc. A/73/10 (2018), 152; G.A. Res. 73/265 (Dec. 22, 2018).
122 Nguyen Hong Thao

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