Climate change has been described as ‘the new great threat to biodiversity’ and ‘the most significant environmental challenge of our time’. The key legal texts underpinning the international climate change regime, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, are recognised as important milestones in the development of international environmental law (IEL). These texts have significantly enriched the corpus of general IEL rules and principles through their further elaboration of, inter alia, the precautionary principle and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and through the development of innovative flexibility mechanisms for their implementation (‘endogenous climate change responses’). There has also been significant activity outside the climate regime to address the impacts of climate change, and of climate change mitigation and adaptation responses, on the global environment (‘exogenous climate change responses’).
Yet the apparent disconnect between widespread acknowledgement of the severity of the problem and the failure of the climate change regime to address it has been characterized as a failure of IEL itself. Indeed, some even question whether IEL ‘can deal with the big issues’ while others dispute the (exclusive) framing of climate change as a problem of and for IEL or caution that ‘the vision of a single climate change regime runs the risk of seriously exacerbating the existing fragmentary tendencies of international law’. This lecture reflects upon these different – even competing - framings of the international legal responses to climate change, and their implications for international law, principles and processes within and beyond the climate regime. Such reflection is timely as we are once again faced with ‘make or break’ negotiations within the climate change regime.
Catherine Redgwell is Chichele Professor of Public International Law and fellow of All Souls College, and Co-Director of the Oxford Geoengineering Programme of the Oxford Martin School. She is currently visiting the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, as a CPR Climate Initiative Visiting Fellow.
Her research interests fall broadly within the public international field, including international energy law and international environmental law. She has co-authored two leading texts on international environmental law, Birnie, Boyle and Redgwell, International Law & the Environment (OUP, 3rd edn, 2009) and Bowman, Davies and Redgwell, Lyster’s International Wildlife Law (CUP, 2nd edn, 2010). In the energy field she has published widely including as co-editor and contributing author on international energy law in Energy Law in Europe (OUP, 3rd edn, forthcoming 2015). She is currently co-investigator in a cross-institutional two year (2012-2014) research project on Climate Geoengineering Governance (CGG) funded by the ESRC and AHRC, led from the Oxford Institute for Science, Innovation and Society.
Catherine’s current affiliations include membership of the Academic Advisory Group of the Section on Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Infrastructure Law of the International Bar Association, the Council of the British Branch of the International Law Association, and of the Public International Law Advisory Board of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.
Before (re)joining the Oxford Faculty, she held the chair in Public International Law at University College London (2004-2013), having previously held the position of Reader in Public International Law and Yamani Fellow at St Peter’s College (1999-2003). She has also previously held positions at the Universities of Nottingham and Manchester.
CPR's Climate Initiative seeks to generate research and analysis on the global climate negotiations, and on the links between the global climate regime and domestic laws, policies and institutions in India. It also seeks to create a platform from which scholars and activists can engage in policy and academic debate on climate change.
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