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Causes and Solutions
Holling’s (1973) classic treatment of resilience analysed resilience as a property of systems that, despite significant fluctuations in populations of species, were able to persist in ecosystems. In developing an account of resilience to climate change adequate to the moral value not only of human populations, but also of human individuals, inequalities in resilience between individuals emerge as an important problem. This paper argues that not only are there considerable inequalities in resilience to climate change between individuals, but that, in many cases, these inequalities are relational, such that the advanced resilience of some often reduce the resilience of others. These inequalities, insofar as they systemically impact the life chances of individuals, may be said to generate differential ‘risk-class’ positions, which are of increasing importance in the context of massive socially manufactured risks such as climate change. In a legal context of organised irresponsibility – where social risk producers often escape culpability because the specific damages of these risks are not traceable back to their originators – there is significant potential for a fundamental exacerbation of existing inequalities. In conclusion, analysing climate change through the prism of ‘resilience’ can aid in understanding the impact of climate change insofar as the concept importantly illuminates certain key inequalities unrecognised by many other social science discussions of inequalities. Nevertheless, there are also important limits to the concept insofar as protecting the resilience of each to climate change may require moving from the persistence to a transformation of existing social and economic institutions and practices.
Social-ecological resilience and sustainability have long been serious concerns in China. Along with the rapid economic development in the past three decades, environmental qualities of air, water and soil have been continuously deteriorating, health risks caused by pollution have recently reached to a point historically high, and social conflicts due to environmental problems occur everywhere and frequently. Traditional regulatory approaches are designed and implemented but are frequently ineffective. However, the recent development of societal approaches such as environmental stakeholder dialogues can be good complements to the conventional strategies for social-ecological resilience and sustainability in China, at least at the community level.
This chapter argues that environmental risks present a growing threat to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) political legitimacy. One of the main ways this is manifested is through growing societal pressure on the CCP to demonstrate that it can protect its citizens from such risks. In this sense, risk resilience is inseparable from CCP resilience. Yet China’s system for pre-empting and managing environmental risks has long been viewed as a work in progress, and recent incidents, such as the series of massive explosions in Tianjin’s container port that resulted in over 100 fatalities, highlight the scale of the challenge facing the Chinese authorities. This chapter explores these challenges and analyses some of the ways in which the party-state has responded. Although the Chinese central government enacted a plethora of laws to protect the environment, these are in tension with (and often subservient to) the cadre responsibility system (CRS) which sets targets for officials and which, until recently, prioritised economic growth over environmental protection. This has changed somewhat, as stringent energy efficiency goals have become priority targets under the CRS. However, this chapter highlights problems associated with this approach including unintended outcomes. This chapter then looks at attempts to decentre environmental risk management through regulatory pluralisation. Yet, paradoxically, whilst most analyses argue that greater public involvement is required in order to overcome contemporary environmental risks, and although tentative steps towards facilitating more public support in environmental regulation have been taken, the CCP’s suspicion of non-state actors continues to limit their potential in managing environmental risks. Overall, this chapter concludes that deeper systemic change is needed in order to effectively manage environmental risks.
Inequalities in exposure to environmental health risks in homes, workplaces and the wider city are well understood, even if often poorly documented in low- and most middle-income nations. This is also the case for inequalities in health outcomes – for instance inequalities in years of life lost/premature death rates (especially for infants, children and mothers). There are also many inequalities in housing and living conditions, working conditions and access to services (that fall within the economic, social and environmental determinants of health). These inequalities (and the inequity that underlies them) can be seen between nations, within nations and very often within urban centres. Then there are inequalities in the draw of individuals or households make on finite resources and waste sinks through their consumption patterns and lifestyles – the most dramatic being the vast inequalities in individuals’ contribution to greenhouse gas emissions through which we are currently heading for dangerous climate change. There are also inequalities between nations, within nations and within localities in the capacity to build resilience to disasters and to the direct and indirect impacts of climate change. However, there are some cities where a range of inequalities have been addressed, often by addressing underlying causes. This chapter will present some of these and consider what they can teach us about addressing inequalities in environmental risks.
Cameron Holley and Ekaterina Sofronova
This chapter critically examines the new environmental governance, a novel innovation in legal thinking and practice that offers a pathway for operationalising resilience. New governance relies heavily upon participatory dialogue and deliberation, flexibility, inclusiveness, multi-level and integrated approaches, knowledge generation and processes of learning and adaptation. These features enable new governance to addresses many of the critical challenges demanded by resilience theory, because it explicitly seeks to allow different scopes of risk to be managed at different levels and engages a larger number of actors to facilitate experimentation and learning in the face of uncertainty. This chapter highlights the contours of the new environmental governance, its growth as a new form of legal jurisprudence, its relationship to broader resilience thinking and its position as an approach that can administer and operationalise resilience. The advantages of new governance and its limits for adaptively managing change in social and ecological systems are examined in detail. The analysis reveals that although new governance holds significant promise, it has often struggled to fulfil its adaptive and flexible aspirations and overcome barriers of unequal power and resources. It concludes by setting out emerging issues for understanding and reforming new environmental governance and its approach to managing resilience.
Edited by Bridget M. Hutter
Ole W. Pedersen
Against a background of intense scholarly focus on and regulatory interest in the concept of resilience, this chapter considers the extent to which it is possible to deliberately design and embed features of resilience into environmental law and regulation. The chapter argues that, upon closer scrutiny, some of the characteristics most often associated with resilience are indeed already present in much of modern UK environmental law. Importantly, however, this is best explained not by reference to deliberate design features of the law, but by reference to the ad hoc and often piecemeal development of the law. In response to this, the chapter considers the ways in which public participation mechanisms – prominent in much of modern environmental law – may serve as a more useful avenue for embedding reliance in the law.
As atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise, so too does the need for parallel policy paths – mitigation through emissions reduction and adaptation to the impacts of unavoidable change. Developing countries have been focusing on the adaptation imperative for many years, with this as their principal commitment under international agreements. For many developed countries, adaptation has emerged as a policy priority from the economic and human toll of extreme events. Spatial planning (particularly for coastal and flood hazards), water resources management, disaster preparedness and emergency management have hitherto dominated adaptation policy efforts. A range of new legal and policy instruments and approaches has been trialled, most of which contemplate iterative adjustment in response to future changes. The slow onset of climate change impacts has generated little appetite for system-wide transformation, yet this leaves our legal frameworks ill-prepared for tipping points or system shocks. It also overlooks the inadequacies of many existing regimes – especially relating to biodiversity conservation – to cope even with the current suite of threats and stressors. This chapter argues that promoting resilience through law and legal institutions can help us move beyond incrementally and repeatedly adapting to the risks from climate change to supporting dynamic and naturally responsive arrangements. It identifies features of existing approaches that undermine the law’s capacity to respond and transform, and offers suggestions about the ways in which the challenge of climate change may offer a unique opportunity to re-think legal rights and responsibilities towards the natural world.
Bridget M. Hutter
This chapter outlines some of the most prominent environmental issues we face, including changes in our understandings of environmental risks, uncertainties and damage and the inequalities attaching to them. It discusses strategies for managing these risks, focusing in particular on risk and resilience perspectives and the ways in which they relate to environmental law. The chapter introduces the organisation of the book around major themes such as variable perspectives on risk regulation; the compatibility of law with notions of risk and resilience; transnational efforts to manage environmental risks; and the difficulties associated with managing inequalities within and between countries. It concludes with an introduction to some of the emerging governance issues generated by these debates.