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Mr Matthias Nouvet

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Member of the Durham Law School  
PhD Student and Research Assistant in the Centre for Sustainable Development Law and Policy  


Matthias joined the Law School in October 2021 as a PhD candidate, with a core focus on Public International Law and International Climate Change Law. Recipient of the Durham Doctoral Studentship, he first started his academic journey graduating from the Université de Poitiers with a Bachelor in Law in 2017. Enrolling at the Université de Poitiers for his Masters, Matthias enjoyed an ERASMUS experience at Ghent University (Belgium), where his interests in Public International Law and International Environmental Law came to fruition. 

After a sabbatical year in China where he worked as an educational program manager, while learning about Chinese culture and customs, Matthias came back to academia to undertake a LLM in Environmental Law at the University of Dundee, where he graduated from with a First Class Degree (distinction). During his LLM, Matthias won the Sir Alan Langlands Water Law Leaders Prize, specialising in Water law. Also he got involved in the Enterprise Challenge, where he and his teammate were awarded the “most enterprising team” award, for the development of a job search engine preserving the candidates’ anonymity, enhancing equity and fighting discrimination. 

Due to COVID-19 Matthias went back to France and work remotely for Durham University as an assistant researcher, focusing on COP26 questions. He also worked as an assistant researcher for the International Research Advisory Board (IRAB), under the supervision of Pr Petra Minnerop, where he had the opportunity to research on climate change law in Nigeria, prior starting his PhD. 

Matthias’s greatest personal achievement was his experience as a local politician in France, where he was elected at his town’s municipal council at only 18, one of the youngest elected in France. He also ran (unsuccessfully) for the 2015 district election and participated locally in the 2017 presidential campaign.

Current Research

Sea-level rising is one of the most gradual but disruptive consequences from climate change. Even if it is one of the most dramatic scenario, the threat is real. Under the supervision of Professor Petra Minnerop and Professor Ming Du, Matthias’s research focuses on Statehood and Climate Change, the impact of sea-level rise over island and coastal State. Drawing upon the politico-legal aspects of International Climate Change Law, it questions the disappearance of low-lying island States due to the adverse effects of climate change and how sea-level rise reshapes Statehood across the World. 

First this research will demonstrate how sea-level rise threatens States. From destroyed infrastructures to contamination of freshwater with saltwater, coastal and island States are highly vulnerable to the adverse effects associated with climate change. Potentially it will create a chain reaction leading to the disappearance of the elements constituting a State, to its partial or total extinction.

Second, this thesis will aim at establishing international accountability. Applying the rule on responsibility, this part will further consider the different remedies third States may have to provide as reparation for the commission of an internationally wrongful act. Without denying the responsibility of the international community in loss and damage resulting from climate change extreme events. More than addressing pure economical losses, international law provides multiple options for island and coastal States to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. 

Finally it will draw upon the scanty literature to analyse and provide a legal solution for small island and coastal States, recommending the adoption of a new treaty recognising new category of States and advocating for changes in the legal definition of statehood, beyond traditional boundaries.

Any questions concerning my thesis are welcome. I am open to collaborating on relevant research papers or projects.

Research interests

  • Public International Law
  • International Environmental Law
  • International Climate Change Law
  • Law of the Sea
  • International Relations
  • Human Rights
  • Law of Armed Conflicts