Assessing the impact of climate change and sea level rise on Pacific islands maritime boundaries.
The purpose of this note is to provide the facilitator and speakers with information on the side event on the impact of climate change on maritime boundaries in the Pacific.
- Present the issues related to maritime boundaries in the Pacific islands region;
- Update on the work and progress made in the last 15 years with the consortium of partners;
- Introduce the project implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC) and supported by the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and regional partners;
- Present Pacific islands countries views on their maritime zones and questions about the impact of climate change;
- Debate on legal and social implications of the impact of climate change on Pacific islands countries maritimes zones.
The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is the international agreement that establishes a relationship between land and sea. It defines types of natural features and the maritime zones they can generate. As recognised in the Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape (FPO), which Pacific Leaders endorsed in 2010, setting maritime zones under UNCLOS, such as the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs), enables Pacific countries to maximise rights over critical resources. One of the FPO’s recommended strategic priority actions is to “fix baselines and maritime boundaries to ensure the impact of climate change and sea -level rise does not result in reduced jurisdiction of Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs)”.
The land and natural maritime features used in the Pacific islands to generate maritime zones often consist of low elevation islands, sand cays, rocks, and their associated reef systems. The permanence of these types of features, and their ability to generate maritime zones are at risk due to climate change. The major hazards, or change drivers, are sea level rise, erosion of land, ocean acidification, extreme events, loss of habitat and decreasing biodiversity. The compounding impacts of these hazards may lead to features disappearing or decreasing in their persistence over time or in the same location.
Whilst the settlement of maritime boundaries is an urgent action for the Pacific islands region, UNCLOS does not provide absolute certainty over ocean space in the face of climate change. Since maritime zones are generated from land features, losses of or changes to those land features may ultimately deflate EEZs. Identifying, analysing and evaluating the natural features that are at risk of destabilising maritime zones, determining legal and social implications and providing risk treatment options, are paramount in the Pacific islands region.
The side event will allow a debate of expert and interactive exchange with the audience on the impact of climate change on maritime boundaries and determine to what extent possible risk treatment options and UNCLOS current provisions would provide some level certainty. The side event outcome will raise issues and risk that would potentially concern other regions in the world.
Where: UNFCC room 2