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The frequency and severity of ‘natural’ disasters, like flood, cyclone and bushfire, and longer term phenomena, such as drought and sea level rise, will increase as a result of climate change; posing major threats to settlements, infrastructure, natural resources and biodiversity. This subject covers the multi-scalar legal response to disasters involving international treaties and soft-law instruments, national and regional regulation, and private law (torts and contract), and encompassing climate change adaptation, emergency management, environmental liability, insurance and human rights. It will examine approaches to prepare for, avoid or minimise disaster impacts, and to respond effectively and equitably post-event. Relevant case studies are drawn from Australia and various comparative jurisdictions regionally and internationally.
This subject critically examines different legal approaches to avoid, mitigate and respond to natural disasters and relevant adaptation planning, emergency and natural resource management regimes.
Principal topics include:
- An overview of disasters and climate change impacts, focusing on predicted changes to the frequency, intensity and geographical occurrence of natural hazards, and impacts on human settlements
- Examination of the types of public and private planning and legal mechanisms at the local, state, national and international scale relevant to disaster management
- International agreements and soft law, with case studies of their application to recent disaster events (eg liability regimes for oil and gas disasters and mining incidents; funding mechanisms for disaster risk reduction; instruments for the protection of persons in disasters)
- Emergency management and adaptation planning in Australia, with selected case studies covering: coastal hazards: NSW coastal management and land-use planning regimes; bushfire: Victorian land-use planning, emergency management and recovery, and relevant compensation law for the 2009 bushfires and fires in open cut coal mines in the La Trobe valley in 2015; Flood: statutory planning and insurance regimes in Queensland, and the response to the 2011 floods; Drought: emergency water allocation management in urban and rural areas in south-eastern Australia
- Comparative case studies in developed and developing countries, evaluating the transferability of legal principles (eg responses to drought and water scarcity in the western United States and southern Africa; coastal adaptation planning instruments in the US and United Kingdom; and typhoon readiness in South East Asia).
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject will:
- Have an advanced and integrated understanding of the legal principles and mechanisms that can be used to avoid, mitigate and respond to natural disasters and adapt to climate change, including recent developments in this emerging field of law and practice
- Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess the effectiveness of these legal rules and mechanisms
- Be well equipped to compare and contrast legal approaches to disaster management and climate adaptation in a range of jurisdictions, including both developed and developing countries
- Be able to engage effectively in debate regarding different approaches to natural disaster management and climate change adaptation
- Have a strong understanding of regimes for the management of natural disasters and trans-boundary harms in an international and human rights context
- Have the cognitive and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyze existing and emerging legal issues relating to natural disasters and climate adaptation
- Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding natural disaster and climate adaptation law to relevant specialist and non-specialist audiences.
Last updated: 3 November 2022