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Law and the environment


Law and the environment

pathways towards cooperative sovereignty & shared responsibility

I am the Director of the LLM programme in Marine and Maritime Law and a Lecturer in Law at the University College Cork, where I focus on Public International Law; International Environmental Law; Law of the Sea; and Natural Resource Protection and Use. In addition to my academic position, I serve on the Managing Board of the European Environmental Law Forum (EELF) and am a member of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law.

My current research explores pathways towards cooperative sovereignty & shared responsibility in a changing global order. Does the law of state responsibility provide a useful paradigm for addressing global environmental challenges – like climate change, or the protection the marine environment in areas beyond national jurisdiction? How can we strengthen the general obligation to cooperate to better address the convergence of common concerns? Can universal values ever prevail over bilateralism and reciprocity? How can we overcome the shield of state-centrism – and the perceived decline of the international rule of law – in order to build an international community?

In addressing those questions, my research ties together doctrine and theory to examine how international law operates and adapts to contemporary challenges in a changing global order – with a special focus on International Environmental Law.

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Principles of Public International Law

The aim of this undergraduate module is to enable students to apply key concepts and principles of public international law to selected global challenges and to provide students with the skills necessary to analyse the role and relevance of international institutions and international law. On successful completion of this module, students should be able to: demonstrate comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the core principles of public international law; assess the normative foundations and legitimacy of the international legal system, drawing on key challenges of international law; demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key concepts of international law by applying them to current international legal disputes; analyse case law and treaties by applying legal reasoning; and understand the relationship between international law and international relations.

Topics: Historical developments of international law; institutions of the international legal system; sources of international law; the law of treaties; international legal personality; the right to self-determination; recognition of states and governments; the evolving concept of sovereignty; use of force; international rule of law; introduction to the law of the sea


Law of the Sea

The law of the sea is one of the oldest and most developed branches of public international law. Its early origins can be traced back to the writings of 17th century scholars and diplomats such as Hugo Grotius (Mare Liberum) and John Selden (Mare Clausum). Their principal concerns were the right of states to use the oceans freely for maritime trade and fishing (Grotius), or to assert dominion or sovereignty over them (Selden). Modern law of the sea continues to reflect that tension between conceptions of the oceans as a common space for use by all states and as an area in which coastal states enjoy territorial sovereignty, sovereign rights over ocean resources, or regulatory and enforcement jurisdiction for certain purposes. The aim of this module is to explore the law of the sea from international, EU and Irish perspectives, and to introduce students to the contemporary challenges in the regulation of the world's oceans.

This course is accompanied by a 'clinical' seminar, which allows students to apply the learned theory to a practical case. The students will be taken to the Irish Naval Base in Haulbowline for a tour on the LÉ Eithne, where they will witness a mock law enforcement operation. The mock operation will be explained to them in a practical way, with a sequence of how situations develop and what sequence of events generally follows. At the end of this first day, students will be divided into groups, asked to identify the relevant legal issues of a case study and to research the applicable law in preparation for the second day of the module when they present their results in front of a jury.

Topics: History, sources and principles of the law of the sea; freedom, sovereignty and common heritage; jurisdiction in the law of the sea; protection of the global commons at sea; living marine resources and biodiversity; marine scientific research; marine pollution; dispute settlement mechanisms; polar oceans and climate change


Contemporary Issues in International Law

The aim of this graduate seminar is to provide students with insights into the fundamental principles of public international law and deepen their understanding of the international legal dimensions of contemporary global challenges. On successful completion of this module, students should be able to: demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the core principles of public international law; analyse and discuss key concepts of international law in the context of selected case studies and problems; analyse case law and treaties by applying legal reasoning; understand the relationship between international law and international relations.

Topics: Histories and theories of public international law; subjects & sources of international law, the evolving concept of sovereignty; state responsibility &  peaceful settlement of disputes; territorial sovereignty & boundary disputes; the right to self-determination & recognition of states; use of force, peacekeeping & the responsibility to protect; terrorism & the war on terror; autonomous weapon systems; cybersecurity & international law; international rule of law


Introduction to Human Rights LAW

The aim of this module is to provide students with an introduction to international human rights law and the concepts and issues relevant to development and food security. On completion of the course, students will be familiar with the major universal and regional systems of human rights law and also with the human rights applicable in armed conflict, including those derived from international humanitarian law. Students will also have acquired a general understanding of public international law to the extent that it is relevant to international human rights law.

Topics: Human rights as law and as international law; the philosophy of human rights law; key human rights instruments and institutions; equality and non-discrimination; cultural rights; children's rights; women's rights; gender identity; hate speech, racism & freedom of expression; human rights and the environment; human trafficking; the war on terror; international refugee law; critical perspectives on human rights law


International Environmental Law

This module aims to outline and critically examine the emergence and continuing development of a range of public international law regimes for the protection of the natural environment. The principal focus is on the main sources of the international rules and principles on environmental protection which have emerged to govern the conduct of state actors and on the interaction of such rules and principles. The module will also closely examine a number of selected sectoral areas, such as international water resources law, which present quite particular challenges for effective inter-state cooperation.

Topics: Sources, forms and scope of international environmental law; changing patterns of international environmental law-making; theories of implementation and compliance with international environmental law; participatory rights in international law; state responsibility and dispute resolution; environmental protection under other fields of international law; future challenges of international environmental law – common goods / concerns, internationalism vs. regionalism, the emerging 'rights of nature'; international environmental law and the transformation of international law


Climate Change Law and Policy

The anthropogenic changes to the global climate system present one of the greatest challenges to confront humanity which requires a comprehensive response from the international community spanning multiple disciplines. The aim of this module is to provide students with insights into the key legal issues relating to climate change from an international and national perspective and deepen their understanding of the continuous development of this complex area of law and policy. The course explores the key institutional and legal issues relating to the evolution and implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol followed by the Paris Agreement. The course considers novel responses and techniques to address climate change such as geoengineering and the cross-cutting relationship between climate law and other international legal regimes.

Topics: Introduction to international climate change law and policy; institutions, processes & principles; common but differentiated responsibilities – from Kyoto to Paris; climate change law in a national context; future & cross-cutting challenges of international law on climate change; geoengineering the climate


Marine Environmental Law

The aim of this module is to outline and examine critically the diverse legal frameworks established under international EU and Irish law relating to protection of the marine environment. In addition to addressing key principles and approaches in the regulation of marine environmental pollution and harm, this module will examine a number of selected issues in greater detail.

Topics: Marine environmental protection and the law of the sea framework; marine environmental protection and principles of international law; marine spatial planning; integrated coastal zone management; transboundary marine pollution; straddling fish stocks and highly migratory species; and marine pollution from land-based sources


Natural Resources Law

The goal of this seminar is to outline and critically examine how diverse legal frameworks apply to the development, utilisation and management of a range of key natural resources. The principal focus will be on the main sources of the relevant rules and principles of natural resource utilisation and management, as well as on applicable rules relating to environmental protection. The module will examine a number of selected natural resources sectors in detail – each of which present particular legal and regulatory challenges. In so doing, it will benefit from the contributions of a number of specialist guest lecturers.

Topics: Globalisation and the emerging legal frameworks for natural resources utilisation and management; unconventional gas exploration and extraction; offshore renewable energy; sea fisheries & aquaculture; extractive industries – oil, gas, and mining; international freshwater resources

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Navigate Project on Ocean Law and Marine Governance

Since 01/2018 (48 months)
800,000 EUR; funded by the Marine Institute Ireland
Project partners: Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy (MaREI); UCC School of Law

Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth outlines Ireland's ambition to develop economic, environmental and social benefits derived from our seas and is aligned with the twin pillars of “Blue Growth” and environmental protection under the EU’s Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP). The IMP and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) recognise the dynamic nature of the seas and the legislation and policies which support these mandate regional cooperation including through Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) and marine environmental strategies. The Navigate project will establish a knowledge base of marine law developed around a matrix of sectors and pressures. A knowledge base will be constructed to inform a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis, reviewing national marine law and governance. A face-to-face project consultation phase will be held to respond to the needs of government departments and state agencies so as to prioritise individual place, sector and pressure-based studies. That way, Navigate aims to support and enable efficient and effective governance of Irish maritime territories.

Own role: Senior researcher on Ocean Law & Marine Governance; co-leader of the legal work packages; supervision of fully funded PhD student


Water Diplomacy: Making Cooperation Work

01/2015 – 12/2017
735,000 EUR; funded by The Hague Institute for Global Justice (The Hague, Netherlands)
Project partners:  Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research; IUCN Asia; Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI); Tufts University; UNESCO Centre on International Water Cooperation; Uppsala University

The aim of the Water Diplomacy: Making Water Cooperation Work project is to identify and operationalize the key factors that contribute to the transformation of water conflicts to cooperation over water. The rationale for this project follows from the large challenges for water governance in the 21st century: Not only will it become more difficult to provide access to water for all (and particularly for vulnerable or marginalised groups), the multiple groups of traditional and non-traditional actors will increasingly influence decision-making on the distribution of freshwater. Based on empirical evidence from the case studies, what are the key factors influencing effective water cooperation? How can these insights successfully be used to inform and improve multi-track water diplomacy? In order to address these questions, the research entails: development of a multi-track water diplomacy framework for understanding and advancing transboundary water cooperation; legal and political-economy analysis focusing on the specific challenges and the options for cooperation; analysis of the effectiveness of existing cooperation processes (i.e. negotiations and multi-stakeholder dialogues); identification of the zone of possible effective cooperation (ZOPEC); development of concrete recommendations on how to foster effective cooperation.

Own role: Senior researcher; co-design of research plan and funding obtainment; leader of the legal research group; development of legal analytical framework for assessing and strengthening cooperation over water resources in the Middle East and South Asia


Climate Change and Water Governance Capacity in Mesoamerica

06/2012 – 03/2013
30,000 EUR; funded by the Federal Minister for the Environment (Germany)
Project partners: Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research; International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); UNESCO Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science; United Nations World Water Assessment Programme

Water is central to climate change adaptation. An ecosystem-based approach to water management offers an effective strategy for adapting to the likely impacts of climate change on water. While the implementation of such a strategy raises a host of complex economic, social, cultural and environmental challenges, the contribution of governance is critical. Both in general and specific terms, the success or failure of any ecosystem-based adaptation strategy is contingent on the existence of effective governance arrangements. Experience from the development of water-related governance arrangements across the world suggests that a number of key principles can support ecosystem-based climate change adaptation, but these principles must be flexible enough to accommodate the particularities of diverse local contexts. One of the key aims of this project is to advance knowledge around the contribution law can make to resolving potential conflicts over water, through effective dispute avoidance and resolution mechanisms, and thus strengthen water governance and climate change adaptation arrangements.

Own role: Consultant; development of policy guidelines based on international legal assessment of the interface between water and climate change adaptation taking an ecosystem approach; report Transboundary Water Governance and Climate Change Adaptation: International Law, Policy Guidelines and Best Practice Application published by UNESCO at COP 21, Paris (2015)


UN Watercourses Convention Global Initiative

06/2011 – 04/2012
1,000,000 GBP; funded by the Norwegian Government
Project partners: UNESCO Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science; World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)

The aim of the UNWC Global Initiative project is to support entry into force of the UN Watercourses Convention (UNWC), and examine issues around its effective implementation. The UNWC constitutes a global legal mechanism for facilitating the equitable and sustainable management transboundary rivers and lakes around the world. The project seeks to deepen the evidence base around why more states should support the Convention, and what mechanisms need to be in place to ensure its effective implementation.

One of the key outputs of the project, the UN Watercourses Convention User's Guide, was published in 2012 as a comprehensive guide to aid interpretation and implementation for water practitioners and decision makers at all levels. The User's Guide provides an article by article explanation of the text of this global framework instrument. In so doing, the User's Guide explains the meaning and purpose of each article, and offers guidance on the rights and obligations contained therein for policymakers and decision makers, implementation agencies and other bodies responsible for transboundary water issues.

Based on the User's Guide, an interactive website on the Convention has been developed to cater for the multi-faceted ways in which people learn, as well as functioning as a central information portal and advocacy platform for promoting the Convention. This innovative, interactive online tool includes the following features: easy online navigation to all the specific articles of the Convention and accompanying guidance materials that have been developed to explain important theoretical/practical aspects for their implementation; multimedia resources including video explanations regarding critical aspects of the Convention by experts in the relevant fields of water law and policy from around the world; summary 'fact sheets' giving concise and accessible explanations of key legal provisions and concepts; interactive learning modules such as online quizzes to test your knowledge and understanding of the Convention, along with a list of FAQs and answers.

Own role: Consultant; researcher on international law; development of User’s Guide, website and workshop materials

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The Multi-Track Water Diplomacy Framework: A Legal and Political Economy Analysis for Advancing Cooperation over Shared Waters (The Hague Institute for Global Justice, 2016)
– jointly with P Huntjens, Y Yasuda, A Swain, R de Man and S Islam

International Water Law and the Quest for Common Security (Routledge, 2015)

Transboundary Water Governance and Climate Change Adaptation: International Law, Policy Guidelines and Best Practice Application (UNESCO, 2015)
– jointly with A Rieu-Clarke & R Moynihan

UN Watercourses Convention : User's Guide (IHP-HELP Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science, 2012)
– jointly with A Rieu-Clarke & R Moynihan



'Prevention and Mitigation of Harmful Conditions and Emergency Situations (Articles 27-28)' in L Boisson de Chazournes and others (eds) The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses : A Commentary (Oxford University Press, 2018) pp. 275-296.
– jointly with R Moynihan

'Management of Non-Indigenous Species and Invasive Alien Species' in M Salomon and T Markus (eds) Handbook on Marine Environment Protection : Science, Impacts and Sustainable Management (Springer, 2018) pp. 905-18
– jointly with W Köck

'The Indus Waters Treaty: Modernizing the Normative Pillars to Build a More Resilient Future' in Z Adeel and RG Wirsing (eds) Imagining Industan : Overcoming Water Insecurity in the Indus Basin (Springer, 2017) pp. 69-89

'Water Security as an Evolving Paradigm – Local, National, Regional and Global Considerations' in A Rieu-Clarke, A Allan and S Hendry (eds) Handbook on Water Law and Policy (Routledge, 2017) pp. 382-94

'Pushing the Boundaries: Rethinking International Law in Light of the Common Concern for Water Security' in V Sancin and M Kovic Dine (eds) International Environmental Law: Contemporary Concerns and Challenges in 2014 (GZ Zalozba, 2014) pp. 441-52



'Environmental Justice in the Age of Geoengineering : Can International Law Control Pandora’s Box?' (forthcoming)

'Global Environmental Justice through Solidarity: The Case for a New Approach to Common Concerns in International Law' (forthcoming)

'The Year in Review: Germany' (country report), 26 Yearbook of International Environmental Law (2017) 357

'Water Security in Himalayan Asia: First Stirrings of Regional Cooperation?' (2015) 40:2 Water International 342

'The Rising Role of Regional Approaches in International Water Law: Lessons from the UNECE Water Regime and Himalayan Asia for Strengthening Transboundary Water Cooperation' (2014) 23:1 Review of European Community & International Environmental Law 43
– jointly with R Moynihan

'From State-Centrism to Cooperative Sovereignty: Water Security and the Future of International Law' (2013) 1347 Global Water Forum Discussion Paper

'Water Insecurity: A Change Agent for International Water Law Reform' (2013) 15:2 Global Dialogue 1

'Rising to the Challenge of Water Security: International (Water) Law in Need of Refinement' (2012) 4:1/2 International Journal of Sustainable Society 28

'Overcoming State-Centrism in International Water Law: ‘Regional Common Concern’ as the Normative Foundation of Water Security' (2011) 3 Göttingen Journal of International Law 317

'Water Security, Hydrosolidarity and International Law: A River Runs through It ...' 19 Yearbook of International Environmental Law 97
– jointly with P Wouters and S Vinogradov