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Developing Earth System Law to address the socio-ecological crisis of the Anthropocene

The Netherlands
Utrecht University
Event start: 20200625
End date: 20200625

Event description

The event has been postponed due to public health concerns relating to the corona virus outbreak. 


Developing Earth System Law to address the socio-ecological crisis of the Anthropocene

How can lawmakers respond to the urgency, scale and dimensions of the socio-ecological crisis? How should International Environmental Law be designed to fit the epoch of the Anthropocene? In this seminar, Prof. Kotzé argues in support of developing a new legal paradigm for the Anthropocene epoch called Earth system law.

Prof. Kotzé sees the Anthropocene as a crisis of human hierarchy, of global unevenness, of deepening interdependencies, of Earth system decay, of species extinction, of temporal inter and intra-species injustices, and of intensifying patterns of interrelated human/non-human vulnerability. With his expertise in the Anthropocene and Earth system law, Prof. Kotzé will further delve into international environmental law, that serves as an example of how and why law has become incapable of, and inappropriate for, addressing this socio-ecological crisis, and for being unable to respond to the Anthropocene’s regulatory demands. He will specifically reflect on international environmental law and its entanglement with, and structural complicity in, sustaining multiple drivers of Earth system destruction and socio-ecological injustices. By drawing on three Earth system-related regulatory implications of the Anthropocene trope (i.e., inclusivity, interdependencies and complexity), in the final part of the talk, Prof. Kotzé will make out a case in the support of reforming law and creating a new Earth system-oriented legal paradigm that is fit for purpose in the Anthropocene epoch.

After the presentation by Prof. Kotzé, an ensuing panel debate will follow about the new legal paradigm with discussants Dr. Natalie Dobson and Prof. Dr. Seline Trevisanut.

The event will be followed by an informal drink for registered participants.

About the speakers

Prof. Louis Kotzé is Research Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, North-West University, South Africa where he also teaches in the post-graduate LLM program in Environmental Law and Governance. He is also Senior Professorial Fellow of Earth System Law at the University of Lincoln, United Kingdom. His research focuses on the Anthropocene, environmental constitutionalism, human rights, and Earth system law. He is an associate editor of the Earth System Governance Journal. In 2016 he obtained a second Ph.D. at Tilburg University, Netherlands, and has been awarded a Horizon 2020 Marie Curie Fellowship to lead a research project during 2018-2019 at the University of Lincoln titled: Global Ecological Custodianship-Innovative International Environmental Law for the Anthropocene (GLEC-LAW). He is the author, co-author, and co-editor of over 140 publications on themes related to South African, with as his latest published book a Research Handbook on Law, Governance and Planetary Boundaries (with Duncan French-Edward Elgar, 2020). Further information is available at

Dr. Natalie Dobson is assistant professor at the Utrecht University School of Law. Her research focuses on issues of legal regime interaction and climate change, in particular as they relate to managing responsibilities for climate change risks. Natalie holds an LL.M. (Cambridge University, 2012), and a Ph.D. (Utrecht University, 2018), both in international law. The focus of her Ph.D. is on issues of jurisdiction in relation to climate-protective trade measures, looking at the European Union as a global environmental actor. She is a researcher with the Utrecht Centre for Water Oceans and Sustainability Law (UCWOSL). Together with colleagues she received a 2019 University of Sydney – Utrecht University Partnership Collaboration Award for the project ‘managing responsibilities for climate change risks: actors, obligations and the standard of care’, of which she is Utrecht University Chief Investigator. Natalie is also Managing Editor of the Utrecht Law Review, an open-access journal which offers an international academic platform for cross-border legal research.

Prof. Dr. Seline Trevisanut is Professor of International Law and Sustainability and she holds the chair of International Law and Sustainability at the Utrecht University School of Law. Her research interest is on public international law, law of the sea, environmental law, energy law, human rights law and, investment law. She joined Utrecht in 2012 as Marie Curie Fellow and, in the period 2012-2014, mainly worked on her research project “The International Law of Offshore Installations: Cutting Through Fragmented Regimes Towards Better Governance” (2018, CUP). In December 2014, she has been granted an ERC Starting Grant for her project “Accommodating New Interests at Sea: Legal Tools for Sustainable Ocean Governance” (Sustainable Ocean). This project focuses on the interplay between the law of the sea, climate change law and energy law. Currently, Prof. Dr. Trevisanut conducts research within the Utrecht Centre for Water, Ocean and Sustainability Law and on the project UNIJURIS. She teaches introduction to public international law, sources of public international law, law of the sea, and ocean law and policy.

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