Planetary Crises, Planetary Commons and State Consent


Planetary Crises, Planetary Commons and State Consent

The Hall

A Weekly Lecture by Duncan French on the crisis of international law


International law, like many other neoliberal systems, is facing challenges in adapting to modern crises. These crises are often multi-dimensional, non-linear, and unpredictable, making them difficult to regulate. It is important to acknowledge that these challenges are not unique to international law and have been present in other systems preceding and responding to the modernity of the late twentieth century. These planetary crises, particularly climate change, reveal a scale and rate of challenge that systems struggle to adapt to, despite previous attempts at pre-emption and preparedness, such as the development of the climate change regime.
This presentation examines the concept of crisis in international law and how the system's key structural elements, such as sovereignty, multilateralism, and consent, historically used to address such challenges and absorb systemic risks, are struggling to keep up with current planetary crises. And it questions whether these challenges are simply structural difficulties in response to external pressures or if they pose an existential crisis to the system. To focus on this discussion objectively, the presentation will explore opportunities for evolution. This includes developing more refined understandings around planetary commons. However, it is questioned whether the system's in-built conservatism, which has served it well previously when faced with other forms of crisis, will ultimately stymie anything other than notional and frustratingly slow progress.

We are pleased to welcome Duncan French as a guest of the Governing the Planetary Commons program.


Duncan French is a Professor of International Law and currently serves as the Head of the College of Health and Science at the University of Lincoln. Previously, he was the Head of the Law School at the same university, and prior to that, he served as the Deputy Head of School at the University of Sheffield. Duncan's research interests have varied over the years, including the intersection between international environmental law and developmental considerations, Antarctica, the deep seabed, differential responsibilities in international environmental law, the UN's New International Economic Order of the 1970s, treaty interpretation and practice, the legal and de lege ferenda implications of the notion of common concern, and the separate and dissenting opinions of the late Judge Christopher Weeramantry.

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