Research Handbook on International Marine Environmental Law
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Research Handbook on International Marine Environmental Law

Edited by Rosemary Rayfuse

This authoritative Handbook examines the current state and the future needs of international law in addressing the key activities that pose threats to the marine environment. Its chapters explore the legal framework for protection of the marine environment, pollution of the marine environment, seabed activities and the marine environment, protection of marine biodiversity, regional approaches to the protection of the marine environment and climate change and the marine environment. Each chapter goes beyond a survey of existing law to identify the shortcomings in the legal regime and areas of critical research needed to address these shortcomings. This book provides significant insights into contemporary issues surrounding the efficacy of the regime created by the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention and details the further work needed to ensure the design and implementation of effective regulation and management of human activities that affect the marine environment.
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Chapter 16: Forty years of the UNEP Regional Seas Programme: from past to future

Nilufer Oral


In 2014 the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Seas Programme (UNEP RSP) celebrated its fortieth anniversary. Since 1974, when the main threats to the marine environment were identified as land-based and vessel-source pollution, much has changed. While these traditional sources of pollution of the marine environment continue as risks, other environmental threats have become far more numerous and complex. Loss of marine biodiversity and habitats, threats to vulnerable marine ecosystems such as coral reefs, threats to the high seas, and threats from climate change are among the challenges the international community must now address collectively. The UNEP RSP was established in 1974 to serve as the mechanism for promoting cooperation among States sharing a common ‘regional’ marine space. Initially its orientation focused on pollution prevention. However, as new international environmental challenges emerged and scientific knowledge grew, a surge in the number of international environmental instruments being adopted made the UNEP Regional Seas Programme the natural mechanism to promote regional implementation of these new instruments. Over the years, UNEP, which was created as the principal international environmental protection body, has been successful in developing a large body of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). However, the challenge has been to implement these MEAs at the national level. Optimally, the UNEP RSP should serve as a robust mechanism for incorporating these obligations, as well as the international principles of environmental law and mechanisms as they relate to the marine environment and for promoting their regional and national implementation.

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