Sea Level Rise and Impacts on Maritime Zones and Limits: The Work of the ILA Committee on International Law and Sea Level Rise

The Korean Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol 5, No 1, 2017, pp. 5-35.

As the oceans warm and ice melts, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) predicts a global average sea level rise of up to one meter 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 established a new Committee - on International Law and Sea Level Rise - to look specifically at these issues. This article looks at the work undertaken by this Committee to date regarding the law of the sea aspects of its mandate and identifies some considerations for its future work.