Natural Resources

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Splashing down the International Space Station in the Pacific Ocean: Safe Disposal or Trashing the Ocean Commons?

The International Space Station (ISS) is reaching its end of life and will need to be disposed of. NASA plans to do so by de-orbiting the ISS and sinking it into a particular area of the Pacific Ocean known as Point Nemo (named after Captain Nemo, the famous character in the novel Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea). This area is the most remote place on the planet, at least in terms of its being “furthest away from any land”. However, Point Nemo and the surrounding oceanic space is also known as the “spacecraft cemetery”. Space agencies have in fact sunk “space junk” in this area since the 1970’s, through what is also known as spashdowns. Indeed, well over 260 space objects have been sunk in the area, including, notably, the Russian space station MIR. Ahead of the sinking of the MIR station, a debate ensued within the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS), as I discuss in some detail in a recent book…

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Risky business: Uniper’s potential investor-state dispute against the Dutch coal ban

In pursuit of the ambitious long-term goals of the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius and preferably to 1.5 degrees from pre-industrial times, various European countries have decided to phase out coal. While such policies are necessary to tackle climate change – after all, coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel…

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Beyond “Good Neighborliness” in the ICJ 1 October 2018 Judgment in Bolivia v. Chile: Do Human Rights and Sustainable Development Obligate Creating Negotiated Access for Landlocked Bolivia to the Pacific Ocean?

On 1 October 2018, the International Court of Justice issued its Judgment on the Merits in Obligation to Negotiate Access to the Pacific Ocean (Bolivia v. Chile), finding, by 12 votes to 3, that Chile "did not undertake a legal obligation to negotiate sovereign access to the Pacific Ocean" for Bolivia and rejecting all other submissions of Bolivia.  While…

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What on Earth is Happening to Space Law?

In 2015 and 2017, respectively, the United States of America and Luxembourg enacted bills granting property rights on resources collected in outer space. The potential beneficiaries of these laws are hi-tech companies investing in the exploration and exploitation of space resources. Even though robotized mining of precious metals, rare earths and other raw materials on the Moon or on…

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Is Ukraine a “Stranger” to the EU? OPAL Case

In their recent contribution to the Global Trust Working Paper Series, Professor Eyal Benvenisti and Dr. Sivan Shlomo Agon raise one conspicuous, though rarely asked, question within a broader topic of state sovereignty in a globalised world. They wonder how sovereign decision-making powers can be restrained in the face of interests of “strangers”, i.e. third countries,…

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