Editorial #21: On the Excitement of New Beginnings
October marks the beginning of the new semester at German universities. At least in smaller cities like mine in Erfurt, you can feel the squares quickly become more crowded again with familiar as well as with new faces. For many, October ushers the beginning of an exciting new chapter – the new semester, new encounters, and for some, even their everyday life in a new city.
October also holds news for the Völkerrechtsblog, as the blog welcomed an intern for the first time. Since mid-September, I am happy to support the editorial team in their everyday work. My daily life at the blog is a good mix of international law and journalism. First and foremost, I am busy reading new submissions, helping edit posts, and publishing them as well. In addition, my regular schedule includes weekly updates on social media and contributing to the October episode of the Völkerrechtspodcast.
Even though all the team members are spread across different cities, so getting to know each other and working together can only take place online, there is still a very pleasant and open communication despite the distance. I am given a lot of trust and personal responsibility at work, which in turn provides me with room to learn. Above all, I get to experience a lot of new things about the journalistic processes of the blog, and by reading scholarly articles, I also get input on topics that I covered less specifically in my studies.
What concerns me most from an international law perspective is not new to either academia or the global community, and yet the thought will significantly shape my new semester by writing my bachelor thesis: the tension between state sovereignty and problems to be solved together at a global level, specifically climate change.
The international community has long been aware that the relationship between humans and the environment is undergoing profound changes and that it is therefore necessary to meet the challenges in a goal-oriented manner with shared responsibility. Climate change challenges the long standing principle of sovereignty and state territory, as well as the unicentric view on decision and policy making. Particularly in the face of growing global interdependencies – as the climate crisis emphatically demonstrates – ambitions that serve reasons of state cannot offer a solution. Therefore, a new balance must be struck between legitimate self-interest and legally recognized community aspirations. It must be taken into account that, while all states are equally dependent on an intact environment, they are in fact unequally affected and vulnerable.
Similarly, given the much-discussed crime of ecocide, it is clear that efforts are being made to take steps in the necessary direction, but in the face of sovereign concerns, dilution and greenwashing can lead to the ultimate domination of political and state-centered interests, as well as purely anthropogenic policymaking. Sovereign concerns can also pose a hurdle to achieving common climate goals, making state action effective only if it is able to provide a plan that integrates solutions to address climate challenges. It is debatable what this means for the sovereignty of Art. 2 Nr. 1 UNCh and the global community of states.
Given the enormous tasks ahead of the limited timeframe of climate mitigation and adaptation, this is an urgently topical issue that has also been addressed in various facets on the blog and will certainly occupy not only me beyond the semester that is now beginning.
To all those who are now returning to their universities, I wish you a good start to the new semester, and to all others, a wonderful month of October.