Rosemary Lyster, Professor of Climate and Environmental Law and Co-Director of the Australian Centre for Climate and Environmental Law, was recognised for her role in influencing and changing public policy in the area of climate law and climate disaster law.
In 2015, she was appointed by the Victorian Government to a three-person independent review committee to review the state's Climate Change Act 2010 and make recommendations to place Victoria as a leader on climate change.
The Act, which was passed last year includes a number of new measures including an emissions reduction target of net zero by 2050. The most significant actions include:
It’s the impact of climate change and our readiness to respond that Professor Rosemary Lyster believes is one of the most significant challenges to face Australia in the future.
“Around the world the costs of preparing for, responding to, and rebuilding post-disaster are escalating as extreme weather and slow onset events intensify. In the absence of insurance, these costs will be borne by taxpayers and are almost never budgeted for by government, while governments are also slow to engage in pre-disaster risk reduction,” she says.
The Victorian climate change act is a step in the right direction in terms of developing effective law and policy responses but similar measures need to be introduced throughout the whole of Australia. The federal government needs to be more proactive in passing legislation to reduce emissions and foster climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.
To truly be a leader on climate change, Australian governments also need to reassess their approvals for large coal mines.
“Australia has a moral and ethical obligation to consider the impacts of climate change on its own citizens, its immediate neighbours in the Pacific and every other developed and developing country in the world. The time for pretending that coal and coal-fired power has a role in the world’s future energy mix is over.”
Professor Lyster’s current research focuses on documenting and analysing the damaging effects that neoliberal governments have had, and continue to have, on environmental and climate change regulation.
“Australian governments – especially coalition governments – have embraced a major deregulation campaign to free up business from what they regard as ‘unnecessary’ regulation,” says Professor Lyster.
A prime example was the Abbott government’s repeal of the carbon price mechanism. In New South Wales, the Coalition has repealed legislation protecting biodiversity and native vegetation and replaced it with a watered-down version. This is seen as reducing the regulatory burden on farmers but it may also have serious consequences for biodiversity when it is already threatened by climate change.
“There, adverse changes come at a time when strong and effective legislation is needed to protect the environment and build the resilience of all of the ecosystems which sustain human and non-human life, especially as climate disasters and their impacts are on the rise.”