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Maritime Border Issues as Rising Seas Shrink Our Islands

The Pacific Islands have to grapple with how to define their maritime zones as their islands shrink due to climate change induced sea level rise and even how to define their countries in the futures should they become fully submerged.

Maritime zones are currently drawn using “baselines” under the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS) and begin at the low-water line along a nation’s coast.

Climate policy expert Dr Wesley Morgan, a research fellow at the Pacific Hub, Griffith Asia Institute, said that the Pacific had been proactive in maintaining maritime boundaries for some time.

“Pacific countries have led the global conversation on this for some time now. They have been defining their maritime boundary demarcations using global positioning system (GPS) coordinates, rather than the distance from coastal features, because they know those coastal features will erode due to the climate crisis." In a declaration released in 2021 by the Pacific Islands Forum, leaders of 18 member countries and territories have agreed that their maritime borders should be permanent, even if their countries shrink due to a future rise in sea levels caused by climate change.

“Pacific island countries have led global diplomacy on oceans for decades. So this declaration continues to lead, and shape, the global discussion. It is an important diplomatic signal from all of the member states of the Pacific Islands Forum. They are telling the rest of the world, that they will not let their maritime sovereign rights be eroded by climate change”.
Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd

Story Information:

Country: Australia

Topic: Sea Level Rise

Photo or video credit: Courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd

Text Credit: Dr. Wesley Morgan

Date : 7 September 2023

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