Ocean and Climate Challenges: Seeking Sustainable Solutions - Webinar

To mark World Oceans Day on 8 June, the World Maritime University’s WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute welcomed the international community to a public Webinar - “Ocean and Climate Challenges: Seeking Sustainable Solutions”, with a special book launch of Frontiers in International Environmental Law: Oceans and Climate Challenges - Essays in Honour of David Freestone. Over 530 participants from around the world registered for the event that featured high-level speakers addressing the oceans and climate challenges topic. 

Contributors to WMU Ocean and Climate Challenges: Seeking Sustainable Solutions Webinar

In her welcome remarks, Dr Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of WMU said, “it is entirely fitting that we are gathered together on this auspicious day to celebrate the outstanding contribution of one of the leading scholars in the oceans governance world. The concept of the frontier is a profoundly appropriate one to frame Professor David Freestone’s long standing work as a senior member of staff at the World Bank and pioneering scholarship as a leading academic.”

Welcoming remarks were also delivered by Ambassador Marie Jacobsson, Principal Legal Adviser on International Law for Sweden’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Ambassador Jacobsson highlighted the World Oceans Day 2021 Theme of “Ocean: 
Life & Livelihoods,” noting that along with the celebrations, thoughts remained with the estimated 200,000 seafarers who as a result of the pandemic have still not been able to return home. 

Presentations were made by Professor Daniel Bodansky, Professor at Arizona State University who addressed The Ocean and Climate Change Law Exploring the Relationships; Professor Nilüfer Oral, Director of the Centre for International Law at the National University of Singapore who addressed Sea Level Rise as a Pressing Concern of the International Community and the Work of the International Law Commission; and Professor Robin Churchill, Emeritus Professor at University of Dundee who presented about The Climate Emergency and its Implications for Offshore Oil and Gas Activity: What Role for International Law? 

Ambassador David A. Balton, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs for the United States Department of State, introduced Professor David Freestone. Ambassador Balton lauded his extensive work, highlighting his initiative to protect the Sargasso Sea saying, “David essentially created something out of nothing, through sheer intellect, persuasion and perseverance.” 

Professor Freestone addressed the participants, reflecting on the progression of his career and the fruitful and meaningful friendships developed along the way. He expressed his appreciation regarding the book in his honour, which he described as “wonderfully conceived and beautifully executed with an all-star cast.” He concluded with a presentation regarding his work with the Sargasso Sea Commission and proposed that the protection measures in place for the Sargasso Sea under the Hamilton Declaration could potentially be a model for the protection of biodiversity of the High Seas. He reiterated the remarks of previous presenters that the climate crisis is also an Ocean crisis saying, “The Ocean will be there, and the water will be there, but there is a living system and it’s facing existential threats from climate change particularly.” 

The final speakers focused on the book launch of Frontiers in International Environmental Law: Oceans and Climate Challenges - Essays in Honour of David Freestone. Judge David Attard, President of the Chamber for Marine Environment Disputes of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), and Director and Professor of IMO International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI), lauded the book as a valuable celebration of Professor Freestone’s career which he noted has been dedicated to outstanding scholarship. Judge Attard introduced the final speaker, Judge Albert J. Hoffmann, President of ITLOS, who officially launched the book. 

Judge Hoffmann highlighted that Professor Freestone has clearly made his mark through his leadership of the Sargasso Sea Commission, as well as in intellectual and academic communities through his considerable writings, advocacy and activism on ocean and environmental issues. He said, “The title of this collection is a clear indication of David’s inspirational vision for world heritage and his lifelong dedication to tackling some of the oceans most contemporary threats and governance challenges,” and he praised Professor Freestone as “a true visionary in modern ocean governance.” Judge Hoffmann commended the authors and editors for capturing essays that reflect Professor Freestone’s far reaching expertise and experiences in one book, providing important insights into developing our knowledge of climate change and ocean governance.

About the Publication: Frontiers in International Environmental Law

Frontiers in International Environmental Law: Oceans and Climate Challenges - Essays in Honour of David Freestone is an open access publication that explores how law and legal scholarship has responded to some of the most important oceans and climate governance challenges of our time. In the the first chapter, the editors, Professor Richard Barnes, Professor in International Law and Research Impact Lead at the University of Lincoln, and Professor Ronán Long, Director of the WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute at the World Maritime University (WMU), note that the collection, “celebrates the contributions of Professor David Freestone to our understanding of international environmental law, particularly law of the sea and climate law. In doing so, it seeks to reflect his contributions by making its own mark on how we understand these fields of academic inquiry, as well as the realpolitik of international law-making on some of the most pressing and complex sustainability issues of our time.”

Using the concept of the frontier, each contributor provides a unique perspective on the way that we can understand and can shape the development of law and legal institutions to better protect our marine environment and climate system, and reduce conflicts in areas of legal uncertainty. The authors show how different actors influence legal development, and how legal transitions occur in marine spaces and how change influences existing legal regimes. They also consider how change creates risks for the protection of vulnerable environments, but also opportunities for creative thinking and better ways of governing our environment.

Professor David Freestone is a Professorial Lecturer and Visiting Scholar at George Washington University Law School in Washington D.C. He is the Executive Secretary of the Sargasso Sea Commission, established by the Government of Bermuda pursuant to the 2014 Hamilton Declaration on Collaboration for the Conservation of the Sargasso Sea, now signed by ten governments, that is working to protect this unique high seas ecosystem. The project was awarded the International SeaKeepers Prize in 2013. He is also founding Editor of the International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law (now in its 36th year). From 1996-2008 he worked at the World Bank in Washington DC, retiring as Deputy General Counsel/Senior Adviser. From 2008-2010 he was the Lobingier Visiting Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence at the George Washington University Law School. He was the Ingram Fellow at the University of New South Wales in Sydney in 2009 and has held visiting positions at the Fridtjof Nansen Institute (2014-18), University of Cape town (2016) and the Oxford University Martin School (2018). In 2008 he was awarded the Elizabeth Haub Gold Medal for Environmental Law. 

To access Frontiers in International Environmental Law: Oceans and Climate Challenges - Essays in Honour of David Freestone, click here.

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