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Rosemary Lyster

This Chapter confronts the definitional controversy that has endured for three decades over precisely how to define people who are displaced by climate change. Are they to be ‘refugees’, ‘migrants’ or ‘displaced persons’ and do these people need to be displaced internally or across borders, and should their displacement be voluntary or forced? The answer is not simply semantic, for depending on the definition adopted, authors propose the application of different international law instruments in order to protect the human rights of those in question. There is even some suggestion that definitions have been adopted in order to pursue explicitly political agendas. The author of the present Chapter, relying on a thorough literature review and on recently emerging empirical evidence, prefers the term ‘climate displaced persons’, which can apply to those displaced internally and across borders whether voluntarily or by force, including by the force of disasters. This choice reflects the best current evidence, which suggests that people are generally displaced internally by climate extremes and disasters and that, even if they have been displaced across borders, they will want to return ‘home’ once the danger has passed. Accordingly, the terms ‘refugees’ or ‘migrants’ are less accurate as reflections of the situation of climate displaced persons and the patterns of their movement. The author proposes that climate displaced persons should be formally recognized and protected under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as is already beginning to occur. The author argues, however, that while the existing institutions of the UNFCCC can be invoked to satisfy most of the concerns raised, there needs to be continuing convergence between various international law instruments and institutions in order to move beyond the ‘path dependency’ or ‘path exclusivity’ that has existed to date. Finally, the author is cognizant of the fact that even the finest international legal instruments can fail to achieve their goals and that in the case of climate displaced persons there is a great risk of failure unless the international community ensures that sufficient funds are made available for adaptation and for the Warsaw Loss and Damage Mechanism.
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Rosemary Lyster

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Rosemary Lyster

It seems that there are parallel realities when it comes to the threats that global climate change poses, not only to the sustainable development agenda, but to the survival of the planet. On the one hand, climate science has become ever more compelling. Yet at the international negotiations, under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), countries have failed to make the commitments necessary to achieve their stated objective of keeping the rise in global temperatures below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. The Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development concluded in June 2012 with ‘The Future We Want’ as the principal outcome of the Conference. Not surprisingly, ‘The Future We Want’ makes frequent reference to global climate change as being a key disruptor of sustainable development and states ‘that the scale and gravity of the negative impacts of climate change affect all countries and undermine the ability of all countries, in particular, developing countries, to achieve sustainable development and the Millennium Development Goals and threaten the viability and survival of nations’. This article seeks to articulate the reasoning upon which the international community should base its responses to climate change. It will argue that there is an urgent need for a process of impartial public reasoning and discussion on the issue of climate change to emerge, so as to limit the imperatives of national interest and move towards a global justice approach. In so doing it will rely upon Amartya Sen's The Idea of Justice and Stephen Gardiner's A Perfect Moral Storm: Climate Change, Intergenerational Ethics and the Problem of Moral Corruption. In developing this thesis, the author will of necessity refer to a contrary view offered by Eric Posner and David Weisbach in Climate Change Justice where the authors allow national, or local, preferences to dictate the parameters of a climate change treaty.

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Howard Kunreuther and Rosemary Lyster

This article describes the challenges that victims, insurers and governments face in dealing with insurance for low-probability high-consequence events in both developed and developing economies. In developed economies, given their limited experience with catastrophes, there is a tendency for all three parties to engage in short-term intuitive thinking rather than long-term deliberative thinking when making insurance-related decisions. Here, public-private partnerships can encourage investment in protective measures prior to a disaster, deal with affordability problems and provide coverage for catastrophic risks. Insurance premiums based on risk provide signals to residents and business as to the hazards they face and enable insurers to lower premiums for properties where steps have been taken to reduce their risk. To address issues of equity and fairness, homeowners who cannot afford insurance could be given vouchers tied to loans for investing in loss reduction measures. The National Flood Insurance Program provides an opportunity to implement a public-private partnership that could eventually be extended to other extreme events, while the United Kingdom's Flood Re provides a good case study. In developing economies, insurance penetration is historically very low. This requires innovative solutions to catastrophic risk insurance such as risk pooling, parametric insurance and micro insurance. Nevertheless, the uninsured and uncompensated losses of disasters remain extensive, implying the need for public-private partnerships.

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Rosemary Lyster and Manuel Peter Solis

Abstract

The energy sector provides a unique set of challenges in the 21st century. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report has stated, adaptation must be integrated with mitigation and sustainable development for the sake of ‘climate-resilient’ pathways. This understanding of adaptation requires an acknowledgement of the millions of people around the world who are living in a state of energy poverty, and need to be provided with access to modern energy services without being locked into greenhouse gas-intensive emissions pathways. This provides an opportunity to transform away from fossil fuel-powered energy delivered on a traditional electricity grid structure to renewable energy provided through distributed grids and facilitated by energy storage. Finally, electricity infrastructure and energy resources are at risk from slow onset and extreme weather climate disasters. Regulators are required to protect critical infrastructure from such risks including through appropriate land use planning and should consider the adoption of technologies such as Smart Grids to build resilience.

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Rosemary Lyster and Maxine Burkett

This chapter considers climate-induced migration and displacement following climate disasters. It focuses on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation; relocation and resettlement in the event of displacement; and financing, compensation, and risk transfer. It also highlights three major new initiatives which are likely to better protect the rights of climate-displaced persons, including: the new synergies between the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, and the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals; the 2016 Task Force on Displacement under Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage; and the proposed 2018 UN Global compact for safe and orderly and regular migration.

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Rosemary Lyster and Rebekah Byrne

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Rosemary Lyster and Robert R.M. Verchick

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Rosemary Lyster and Robert R.M. Verchick

The threats of extreme weather and slow-onset events to electricity infrastructure have been well documented. Like so many climate change threats, the problem of enhancing resilience in this infrastructure is less a lack of smart technology and more a lack of smart policy. But also the relationship between generators, transmission and distribution networks, and users, which has been pretty straightforward since the days of Westinghouse and Edison, is rapidly changing. It now seems that the way to make the power grid more resilient in cases of extreme events — particularly the kinds aggravated by climate change — is to pay more attention to its durability and flexibility. Localized technologies like rooftop-solar generation now allow users to also act as generators in distributed energy systems. Digital systems embedded in transmission networks can now control how much power commercial users request at certain times or how much power generators will produce, giving the network some characteristics of the user and the generator. We divide that work into three categories: hardening the grid, smartening the grid, and greening the grid, and point to the law and policy innovations which are needed.

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Research Handbook on Climate Disaster Law

Barriers and Opportunities

Edited by Rosemary Lyster and Robert R.M. Verchick

Through assessing climate disaster law in relation to international, public, private and environmental law this Research Handbook considers the unique challenges, barriers and opportunities that climate disasters pose for law and policy. Scientific and empirical evidence suggests that the laws addressing natural disasters cannot be adequately applied to disasters that are caused by climate change. Featuring contributions from leading international experts, this Research Handbook will be a useful resource for those with an interest in environmental law and international policymaking.