Destroying Capabilities: the need to protect diverse human and non-human Capabilities from climate disasters in a post-2015 world’
Lyster, Rosemary Kathryn (2016). 'Destroying Capabilities: the need to protect diverse human and non-human Capabilities from climate disasters in a post-2015 world’' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.
Keywords: diverse human and non-human Capabilities; climate disasters, the role of law
The title of this abstract is a deliberate reference to Martha Nussbaum’s book Creating Capabilities to demonstrate that climate disasters have the capacity to destroy existing Capabilities and improvements in Capabilities into the future.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, and the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance. Climate Change Adaptation (SREX) evaluate how hazards, like natural climate variability and anthropogenic climate change influence the climate extremes that contribute to disasters when they intersect with the exposure and vulnerability of human society and natural ecosystems. In the past decade, floods and cyclones, extreme heat and bushfires, and water scarcity, drought and desertification have impacted heavily and diversely on urban and rural areas, food security, and ecological communities, and have resulted in climate displaced persons. They have impacted on Capabilities in both developed and developing economies.
As The Human Development Report 2014: Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience notes, the impacts of climate change have created a widespread sense of precariousness because human development achievements can quickly be undermined by a climate disaster. Consistently with the theme of the conference, the Report confirms that people’s vulnerability is heavily influenced by their Capabilities and social context; and failures to protect people against vulnerability are mostly a consequence of inadequate policies and poor or dysfunctional social institutions.
The resilience of people exposed to extreme events is enhanced if policies to avoid, prepare for, respond to and recover from the risks of disaster are adopted. This paper adopts a Capabilities Approach to climate disasters and suggests that law, at all stages of a disaster, has an important role to play in addressing the impacts of climate disasters on human and non-human Capabilities. In the post-2015 world, climate disasters can only be addressed through a deliberate integration of climate change law, disaster risk reduction, the Sustainable Development Goals and human rights norms. While these issues are converging at the international level, including through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, this paper invokes a procedural justice approach to propose how an impartial public reasoning process might assist in gaining consensus at the domestic level to implement agreements reached at the international level.
The paper draws on the recently published monograph Rosemary Lyster Climate Justice and Disaster Law (Cambridge University Press: 2015).