Groningen Journal of International Law

International Law Under Construction

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Biden-Harris Back to Paris – A Free Pass From the Past? An International Legal Perspective on the Reparations Still Due

Mohit Khubchandani


On 20 January 2021, Joe Biden took office as the 46th President of the United States of America (US), alongside Kamala Harris, the first female Vice-President. Among his first acts as President, Biden signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, 2015 (PA). While this a welcome decision, this article argues that the US still owes reparations to the world for the transboundary environmental harms committed. There is no retrospective escape from the internationally wrongful acts committed by the past administration. The Trump Administration had announced its decision to leave the agreement in June 2017 but could legally exit it only in November 2020. Therefore, every climate adverse policy enacted in the interim period is something for which the nation owes as an apology to the world; a legal one, too. This is also an opportunity for the world to see, tactically and politically, how much this new administration is willing to take responsibility.

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The Missing Human Rights Nexus in Climate Change Governance

Aisha Binte Abdur Rob \

I.  Introduction

There is increasing recognition of the human costs of climate change as cumulating evidence is solidifying the links between, for instance, rising global temperatures and destroyed livelihoods. The adverse impacts on health, food, housing and other fundamental human needs are now manifest. Continue reading

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Would it be useful if the UN Security Council were to Establish a Climate Change Court or Tribunal?

By Prof. Shirley Scott| 

As evidence mounts that diplomacy will likely prove inadequate for achieving the necessary mitigation – or adaptation for that matter, there is increasing preparedness to explore alternative governance mechanisms. Indeed, those people already most significantly threatened by climate change, such as the inhabitants of the Small Island Developing States in the Pacific, are already prepared to supplement, if not replace, the UNFCCC diplomatic process with decisive action by the UN Security Council. Continue reading

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Climate change and human rights: The Torres Strait Islanders’ claim to the UN Human Rights Committee

By Dr Miriam Cullen

In May 2019, a group of eight Torres Strait Islanders, with legal representation from Client Earth, submitted a claim to the UN Human Rights Committee (UN HRC) alleging that Australia’s contribution to emissions together with its failure to establish adequate adaptation measures violates their human rights. The claim is legally significant as it is the first lodged with the UN HRC by island inhabitants threatened by climate change. It is also the first instance of climate change litigation based in human rights law against the Australian Government. The filings remain confidential, but this blog post sketches the possible parameters of the claim, drawing on a journal article I published last year. Continue reading

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The Conflicting Relationship between Bilateral Investment Treaties and Environmental Law in Ghana

Dr Dominic


The duty of states to protect the environment is not just a matter of municipal law, it is also reflected in international treaties like the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the African Convention on Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and in international declarations.

The duty to protect the environment is fulfilled through the implementation and enforcement of environmental laws and regulations. As Philippe Sands and other scholars pointed out, one of the challenges facing environmental law is the difficulty of enforcement, particularly where environmental protection objectives come into conflict with economic interests. The Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America (CECNA), for instance, argued that environmental regulations may run afoul of bilateral investment treaties (BITs). The CECNA also pointed out that conflict with BITs is one of the reasons both national environmental law and international environmental law rules suffer from inadequate domestic implementation. The United States Trade Representative similarly noted that while “securing a stable investment climate and a level playing field for […] investment abroad is an important objective […], arbitral claims brought by investors against governments (through “investor-State” arbitration) could be used inappropriately to challenge […] domestic laws and regulations, including those concerning the environment.” Continue reading