As the oceans warm and ice melts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) now predicts a global average sea-level rise of up to one metre by 2100. AR5 also emphasizes that sea-level rise will have “a strong regional pattern, with some places experiencing significant deviations of local and regional sea level change from the global mean change.” These predictions pose serious and possibly existential threats to the inhabitants of low lying islands and coastal areas, and pose challenges for the international legal system to respond in an orderly and humane way to these novel situations. In 2012, the International Law Association (ILA) established a new Committee to look specifically at these issues. This presentation will look at the work undertaken by the Committee to date regarding the law of the sea aspects of its mandate and identify some considerations for its future work.


Dr. David Freestone is a Visiting Fellow and Professorial Lecturer at the George Washington University Law School in Washington D.C., where he has taught International Climate Change Law since 2009.  He is a co-Rapporteur of the International Law Association Committee on Sea Level Rise and International Law.  He previously held a personal chair in international law at the University of Hull, United Kingdom, where he is still an honorary professor.

From 1996-2008, he served at the World Bank  in Washington DC as Chief Counsel and head of the Environment and International Law Group, and from 2004  as Deputy General Counsel/Senior Adviser. Since his retirement from the World Bank he has worked with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and is currently Executive Secretary of the innovative Sargasso Sea Commission – which seeks to put protection measures in place for this unique high seas ecosystem.  

His is founding Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law (now in its 32nd year) and a member of the editorial boards of the British Yearbook of International Law, the International Yearbook of Environmental Law, Environmental Law Review, Carbon and Climate Law Review, Climate Law, and the Asia-Pacific Journal of Ocean Law and Policy.   He is General Editor of the monograph series Legal Aspects of Sustainable Development, published by Brill Nijhoff.  He is the 2007 winner of the Elizabeth Haub Gold Medal for Environmental Law.

He has written widely on international environmental law and law of the sea. His publications include: World Heritage in the High Seas: An Idea Whose Time has come. Applying Outstanding Universal Value beyond National Jurisdiction  (with D Laffoley, et al, UNESCO, 2016); The Law of the Sea Convention at 30 (ed. Brill Nijhoff, 2013); The World Bank and Sustainable Development (Brill Nijhoff, 2012); Legal Aspects of Carbon Trading (ed. with Charlotte Streck, Oxford, 2009); The Law of the Sea: Progress and Prospects (ed. with Richard Barnes and David Ong, Oxford, 2006).

The PIL Discussion Group hosts a weekly speaker event and light lunch and is a key focal point for PIL@Oxford. Topics involve contemporary and challenging issues in international law. Speakers include distinguished international law practitioners, academics, and legal advisers from around the world.
The group typically meets each Thursday during Oxford terms in The Old Library, All Souls College, with lunch commencing at 12:30. The speaker will commence at 12:45 and speak for about forty minutes, allowing about twenty five minutes for questions and discussion. The meeting should conclude before 2:00. Practitioners, academics and students from within and outside the University of Oxford are all welcome. No RSVP is necessary. Join the PIL Email List to receive information about the PIL Discussion Group meetings, as well as other PIL@Oxford news.
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Convenors of the Oxford Public International Law Discussion Group are Talita de Souza Dias and Daniel Kaasik.
The discussion group's meetings are part of the programme of the British Branch of the International Law Association and are supported by the Law Faculty and Oxford University Press.