Climate Disaster Law (LAWS6320)


Recent extreme weather events and disasters around the world have resulted in loss of life, property, infrastructure and livelihoods and have severely disrupted the normal functioning of the societies which they have impacted. Worldwide insured losses alone from weather-related disasters have risen from US$5.1 billion per year between 1970-1989 to US$27 billion annually over the past two decades. International climate change negotiations have, over the past five years, delivered outcomes that are entirely inadequate to meet the goal set by the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of keeping the rise in average global temperatures below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial temperatures. This unit of study adopts a climate justice approach to assess the respective roles and responsibilities of government and insurers to avoid, prepare for, respond to, recover from, and compensate for, the risks of climate disasters. The questions of avoidance and recovery will rely heavily on traditional Environmental Law mechanisms such as environmental planning and assessment and pollution and waste regimes, as well as the protection of biodiversity. The unit will also assess the viability of tort law and strict liability regimes for hazardous activities to compensate those who are impacted by climate disasters. The strict liability regimes include: global oil pollution spills, hazardous chemicals, asbestos and nuclear disasters. The unit will be taught by an esteemed international team of climate lawyers and individuals with experience in the insurance industry.
The objectives of this unit of study are to: Understand the science presented in two recent scientific reports, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 2012 Special Report Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX), published in 2012, and the Australian Climate Commission's (CCC) 2013 The Critical Decade: Extreme Weather, (Extreme Weather Report, Understand the foundations of climate justice in the context of climate disasters, Understand the relevance of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, including the loss and damage mechanism, and the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters, The role of governments in enacting climate disaster risk reduction laws including: The role of Environmental and Planning Assessment Law and Building Codes in attempting to prevent climate disasters, Pollution, waste and contamination laws in the post-disaster phases, Biodiversity Law that is expected to protect species from the impacts of climate change and disasters, as well as promote ecosystems as disaster prevention measures, Governance arrangements between levels of government during and post the disaster, Compensatory regimes including those provided by government and the private sector through ex-post disaster relief, insurance and the capital markets; and The strengths and weaknesses of tort and strict liability regimes for compensating the victims of disaster.

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Further unit of study information


Jul 5-8 (9-5)


class participation (20%) and 8000wd essay (80%)

Faculty/department permission required?


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Pre-enrolment registration is required. For further information, please visit Sydney Law School website

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If you wish to undertake one or more units of study (subjects) for your own interest but not towards a degree, you may enrol in single units as a non-award student.

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If you are from another Australian tertiary institution you may be permitted to underake cross-institutional study in one or more units of study at the University of Sydney.