Melbourne Journal of International Law, Vol. 10-2: Opinio Juris Online Symposium

Melbourne Journal of International Law, Vol. 10-2: Opinio Juris Online Symposium

We are delighted to introduce the inaugural online symposium issue of the Melbourne Journal of International Law (‘MJIL‘) hosted by Opinio Juris. We would like to thank Opinio Juris, and Kevin Jon Heller in particular, for inviting us to participate in this partnership. We hope that this partnership contributes to the global reach of Opinio Juris by providing an Asia-Pacific perspective on international law. We hope to spark some interesting and lively discussions in the coming week.

This week, we will feature two pieces published in our most recent issue issue 10(2) which contains a symposium feature, entitled ‘Climate Justice and International Environmental Law: Rethinking the North­South Divide’. The symposium intends to analyse the intersections between law and emerging ideas of climate justice, and how international environmental law is shaped by and in turn reshapes (or fixates, or interrogates) our understandings of the NorthSouth divide. As we state in the symposium’s Foreword:

In focusing on ‘climate justice’, the symposium places questions of global equity and distributional justice at the core of international debates around climate change mitigation and adaptation. While the UNFCCC principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ presently recognises the differing historical state responsibilities for climate change as well as their varying capacities for mitigation and adaptation, this symposium seeks to complicate the ‘easy’ dichotomies of North/South, developed/developing and First World/Third World. In doing so, some central questions persist: Is it problematic to conceptualise global justice with reference to such binary categorisations (and what does this overlook) or is this terminology nonetheless useful in providing a language for thinking through unequal distributions of material wealth and global power relations? Can justice be found in present legal frameworks, through, for example, the ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ principle or the forms of collaboration facilitated through the increasingly criticised Kyoto flexibility mechanisms? And ultimately who (or what) will bear the cost of global action (or inaction)?

Our first contributor this week is Associate Professor Maxine Burkett, Director of the Center for Island Climate Adaption and Policy at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai’i at Manoa, who will discuss her article entitled ‘Climate Reparations‘. Burkett argues that climate change affects and will continue to affect vulnerable communities in the global South most acutely, especially the poor and island states. This, for Burkett, presents a great ethical dilemma for the global community and the developed world in particular, which has historically accounted for a disproportionate use of fossil fuels. In her article, Burkett thus develops a legal framework of climate reparations to redress the vast disparity of suffering and displacement caused to the ‘climate vulnerable’ by climate change. A reparations frame, for Burkett, has the potential to be profoundly morally transformative, as the developed world must assume responsibility for its past destructive behaviour and the consequences that flow therefrom and refrain from any such conduct in the future. The respondent will be Associate Professor Hari Osofsky, Washington and Lee University School of Law.

Our second contributor is Mairon G. Bastos Lima, PhD researcher at the Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Bastos Lima’s article, entitled ‘Biofuel Governance and International Legal Principles: Is It Equitable and Sustainable?‘, concerns environmental and social consequences that flow from the growth in alternative fuel sources, which are held up as a viable mitigation strategy for climate change. In particular, he focuses on the questions of global equity, using the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development as a framework for accessing the effectiveness of the present biofuel framework. Finding the current biofuel governance efforts to be illegitimate, non-transparent and inequitable, Bastos Lima argues that a more rigorous and democratic biofuel governance regime is required to give voice to the less powerful, in particular, the affected communities in the global South. The respondent will be Professor C. Ford Runge, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Applied Economics and Law at the University of Minnesota.

We hope that you enjoy and participate in the upcoming discussion around the meaning of climate justice and the forms of legal response climate justice necessitates.

Information on our submissions process, publication policy and past issues can be accessed here. If you would like any further information about the Journal, please contact the Editors at


Laura Bellamy, Sara Dehm and Jeremy Leung

2009 Editors

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