Ernesta Swanepoel Environmental Law Specialist


Ernesta Swanepoel is an admitted South African attorney, specializing in climate change and international environmental law.

Ernesta’s professional focus includes

  • legal analysis, research, review and opinions;

  • research-based consulting and technical input;

  • training and capacity development; and

  • workshop facilitation, rapporteuring, and institutional support.

Ernesta has a specific interest in climate change policy developments as well as ocean governance. Within the United Nations System, Ernesta has consulted for various UN agencies on Climate Change Capacity Development initiatives. International involvement includes developing six e-learning modules on climate change for the UN Training Service Platform on Climate Change, UN CC:Learn, analysing stakeholder submissions for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) policy dialogue and co-authoring certain sections of the final report.

Other projects can be found under Clients and Consultancies and include Ernesta's appointment as subject matter expert for an ocean governance course developed by the International Ocean Institute of Southern Africa (IOI-SA) in collaboration with IOI headquarters and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), legal review of and comment on South Africa's Draft Ballast Water Bill And Regulations, and opinion drafting on various South African national environmental legislation.

Ernesta has drafted various research papers on a wide spectrum of international environmental law topics and regularly acts as a course moderator for international environmental law diplomas and online courses. She attended negotiations of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as an observer and facilitated Programme side events. Ernesta also lectures regularly at the University of Pretoria on South Africa’s Air Quality legislation and regulations as well as national and international climate change policy developments.

Ernesta's studies commenced with BCom Law at the University of Stellenbosch. During 2001 to 2005, Ernesta was based in Kaohsiung, Taiwan where she studied Mandarin at the Taipei Language Institute. During this time she also completed her LLB through the University of South Africa. In 2008 Ernesta was selected for a six months internship program with the International Environmental Law Programme of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), in Geneva, Switzerland. While based in Geneva she completed a diploma in International Environmental Law with UNITAR and lived in Geneva until mid-2010, working for UNITAR’s Climate Change Programme. Ernesta completed her LLM (Marine and Environmental Law) at the University of Cape Town, where she focused on Marine Pollution Law, International Law of the Sea and Natural Resources Law. Her thesis concentrated on the role of international law in addressing climate change and displacement, with a particular focus on the future of low-lying island populations that are threatened by rising sea-levels. 

During 2008, and during her time in Geneva, Ernesta assisted UNITAR at the annual meeting of the United Nations Secretary General and the Special Representatives to the Secretary General. In 2009, Ernesta was selected by UNITAR’s Executive Director to form part of a working group tasked with facilitating the UNITAR strategic reform plan as well as organizing the retreat.

Ernesta's passion for the environment and for oceans goes beyond law. She is a qualified PADI Dive Master and also serves as a volunteer for South Africa's National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) as sea going rescue crew for the Bakoven Station; she is also a rescue swimmer for the institute’s helicopter rescue unit.

Ernesta is currently based in Cape Town, South Africa.

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Ernesta Swanepoel - International Environmental Law Specialist

Ernesta Swanepoel
BCom (Law) LLB LLM (Marine and Environmental Law)

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