We are at a turning point in the global response to climate change, rightly described as one of the greatest challenges of our time. For the first time, the rule of law and human rights are being invoked to deal with the unprecedented effects of climate change on those individuals who have contributed least to the changing global climate. “Climate change justice” demands that those individuals who will be disproportionately affected by climate change, and who are least equipped to deal with its effects, must be protected by fair access to legal mechanisms to help them, including mechanisms to resolve disputes arising from climate change.

At this critical time, the world’s leaders have agreed in Paris 2015 at COP21, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ("UNFCCC"), to a set of commitments designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and allow countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Such commitments need to be kept, and must be binding and enforceable beyond COP21. Arbitration and other forms of alternative dispute resolution ("ADR"), including conciliation and mediation, have now been proposed as options to help enforce these commitments and ensure accountability.

Against this background, I am delighted to introduce this set of lectures, given at the first conference on the potential for the arbitration of climate change related disputes, held in Paris on 7 December 2015 during COP21. A true collaboration between the International Bar Association ("IBA"), the International Chamber of Commerce International Court of Arbitration, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ("PCA") and the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce ("SCC"), the conference took up a challenge laid down in 2014 by the IBA Climate Change Justice and Human Rights Task Force: to explore arbitration and ADR as methods to solve climate disputes. The conference brought together lawyers, academics, UNFCCC negotiators, human rights experts and policy makers to debate the opportunities for resolution of such disputes fairly and openly through arbitration. The strength of the conference lay particularly in the broad mix of ideas as to where arbitration and ADR might be usefully applied in the climate change context, from private and public contractual agreements to the dispute resolution clause in the Paris Agreement itself.

Arbitration has for many years been used by states to resolve complex political disputes. With established procedures and governing bodies, and a focus on the strict application of the rule of law, transparency and fairness, arbitration is increasingly being used to resolve environmental disputes at all levels, including those directly arising from climate change. In this process, I hope that attention will remain on the human rights of the individuals affected on a day-to-day basis by the changing weather patterns and other impacts caused by climate change, and that these individuals have access to fora to raise their concerns.

I commend these presenters for their bold ideas, and encourage individuals, communities and governments grappling with disputes arising from climate change to consider the option of resolving these disputes applying the fairness, predictability and transparency that arbitration and ADR can offer.