02.09.2016 17:19 Age: 5 yrs

Collaborative Research Project on Climate Law in Pacific Island Countries

Six USP law students have enrolled in an environmental law research project that is undertaken jointly by USP, Macquarie University (MQ) and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) during the second half of 2016. The project is novel in its collaboration between law students and academics not only across universities, but also across disciplines, cultures and regions.

The research project focuses on principles of international climate change law. Pacific Island countries (PICs) are amongst the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, yet have contributed negligible amounts to the historical emissions of anthropogenic greenhouse gases that are the primary cause of todayís climate change. Most inhabitants of PICs depend on subsistence farming and fishing, and the contribution of the PICs region as a whole to greenhouse gas emissions is minimal in the context of the global total.

The impact of climate change is becoming increasingly acute for PICs. Parts of Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, Fiji and the Solomon Islands have already become uninhabitable due to sea level rise, rising king tides and water security (e.g salination) issues. Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Solomon Islands were hit in 2015 by category 5 Cyclone Pam. In February 2016, parts of Fiji were completely devastated by Cyclone Winston, also a category 5 cyclone, and the strongest ever recorded in Fiji. More severe disasters are predicted in the future as temperatures continue to rise.

Dr. Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh from USPís School of Law has developed an ongoing research programme on climate change law in PICs in collaboration with the law schools from MQ and QUT. Each year a different aspect of international climate change law will be investigated. In 2016 the topic is the Principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDRRC). USP, MQ and QUT students are conducting extensive background research of legal materials and relevant literature to investigate what this principle means in practice for PICs, whereby Vanuatu serves as a case study.

Eighteen student across the three universities are carrying out this investigation together with academics from each collaborating institution. Students and academics from QUT and MQ will travel to Vanuatu in September to meet with USP students and academics, engage in joint activities and present the research findings. One of the outcomes of this project will be a joint journal article authored by participating academics and students

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