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The frequency and severity of ‘natural’ disasters, like bushfire, flood, and cyclones/hurricanes, 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, resources and biodiversity. Disasters related to human health pandemics, such as COVID-19 have major health and environmental impacts. Largescale industrial accidents, such as mining infrastructure failures may cause loss of life and widespread environmental damage. This subject covers the multi-scalar legal response to disasters involving international treaties and soft-law instruments, national and regional regulation (including state of emergency powers), and private law (torts and contract), as well as 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 disasters and relevant adaptation planning, emergency, health 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 hazards, and impacts on human settlements
- An overview of the environmental and natural resource management impacts of human pandemics and the relevant legal responses
- 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 (e.g. 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 including: coastal management and land-use planning regimes; bushfire responses: Victorian land-use planning, emergency management and recovery, and relevant compensation law for the 2009 bushfires, and federal responses to the 2019-2020 bushfires; Flood, Hurricanes and Tsunamis: statutory planning, and insurance regimes in Queensland and in the USA, and liability and compensation regimes in Japan; Drought: emergency water allocation management in Australia and Africa, and the legal frameworks for managing animals and ecosystems impacted by disasters
- Pandemic disaster laws and management in Australia and selected comparator countries
- Industrial and resource extraction disasters and relevant laws in Australia’s offshore and in comparative case studies, such as the Deep Sea mining and petroleum extraction.
- Comparative case studies in developed and developing countries, evaluating the transferability of legal principles (e.g.; coastal adaptation planning instruments in the US and UK; and typhoon readiness in South East Asia, and pandemic waste disposal management internationally).
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 disasters and the measures to adapt to climate change, including recent developments in law and practice in response to COVID-19
- Be able to critically examine, analyse, interpret and assess the effectiveness of disaster-relevant legal rules and risk management mechanisms
- Be well equipped to compare and contrast legal approaches to disaster management, pandemic responses 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 disaster management and climate change adaptation, and the impacts of pandemics on natural resources and infrastructure
- Have a strong understanding of regimes for the management of disasters and trans-boundary harms in an international law and human rights context
- Have the legal and technical skills to independently examine, research and analyze existing and emerging legal issues relating to disasters and climate adaptation
- Have the communication skills to clearly articulate and convey complex information regarding disaster and climate adaptation law to relevant specialist and community audiences.
Last updated: 12 November 2022