Professor Michael Gerrard in the Marshall Islands Photo: Derrain Cook
Forum in Marshall Islands Convenes Officials, Academics and Advocates to Spur Action on Global Warming
New York, August 29, 2013—Professor Michael Gerrard, the Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice, will serve on a panel of experts on climate leadership at this year’s Pacific Islands Forum, held in the Marshall Islands September 3 -6 in the capital atoll of Majuro, 2,280 miles west of Honolulu.
Gerrard, director of Columbia Law School’s Center for Climate Change Law, is one of the world’s foremost experts in environmental law. He will address legal approaches to the threats Pacific island nations in particular face from rising sea levels, including contamination of drinking water, loss of sovereign territory and maritime rights from erosion and flooding, and forced relocation of populations.
Gerrard has visited the low-lying Marshall Islands previously to consult with their government, and worked extensively to bring global attention to the plight of vulnerable Pacific Islanders. When the Marshallese government approached him with a formidable set of legal questions about the implications of a state facing submersion, the Center for Climate Change Law issued an international call for papers—answered by dozens of scholars from 23 nations—and organized a high-level conference in 2011 to grapple with the numerous complex legal issues involved. Gerrard recently co-edited a book, Threatened Island Nations: Legal Implications of Rising Seas and a Changing Climate, the first to explore the topic.
Gerrard said, “As a result of sea level rise, the Marshall Islands and several other states face an existential threat – an event unprecedented in the history of human civilization. Scientists, engineers, lawyers, and experts from many other disciplines are getting together to help the affected governments and populations decide how to address these challenges.”
The panel of experts will also address sustainable development, energy efficiency, and movement building. Other participants include Dr. Li Gao, deputy director of China’s Climate Change Department; Tanaka Kazunori, Japan’s senior vice minister for the environment; and Mary Robinson, formerly president of Ireland and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The annual Pacific Islands Forum convenes officials, community representatives, civil society, and journalists to collaborate on regional priorities. The theme for this year’s gathering, the 44th, is “Marshalling the Pacific Response to the Climate Challenge.”