New Article: “International Environmental Law in the Anthropocene: Towards a Purposive System of Multilateral Environmental Agreements”

Kim, R.E. & Bosselmann, K. (2013). International Environmental Law in the Anthropocene: Towards a Purposive System of Multilateral Environmental Agreements. Transnational Environmental Law. 1-25.

Abstract: Our point of analytical departure is that the state of the global environment is deteriorating despite the accumulating body of international environmental law. By drawing on the recent Earth system science concept of interlinked planetary boundaries, this article makes a case for a goal-oriented, purposive system of multilateral environmental agreements. The notion of ‘goal’ is used here to mean a single, legally binding, superior norm – a grundnorm – that gives all international regimes and organizations a shared purpose to which their specific objectives must contribute. A bird’s eye view of the international environmental law system reveals how the absence of a unifying goal has created a condition that is conducive to environmental problem shifting rather than problem solving. We argue that a clearly agreed goal would provide the legal system with a point of reference for legal reasoning and interpretation, thereby enhancing institutional coherence across Earth’s subsystems. To this end, this article concludes by observing that the protection of the integrity of Earth’s life-support system has emerged as a common denominator among international environmental law instruments. Accordingly, we suggest that this notion is a strong candidate for the overarching goal of international environmental law.

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New Article: “Exploring Climate Change Uncertainties to Support Adaptive Management of Changing Flood-Risk”

Lawrence, J., Reisinger, A., Mullan, B., Jackson, B. (2013). Exploring Climate Change Uncertainties to Support Adaptive Management of Changing Flood-Risk. Environmental Science & Policy. 33: 133-142.

Abstract: Increasing intensity and frequency of extreme precipitation events projected as a consequence of global warming pose significant challenges for decision-making. Climate change creates a dynamic risk, but flood risk management decision-making based on single ‘best estimate’ scenarios is entrenched within decision-making frameworks and professional operating practices. This conceals uncertainties and focuses attention on enhancements to existing ‘protection’ structures, giving a false sense of security to those living within presumed ‘safe’ areas. A more nuanced, risk-based approach to flood frequency changes is needed to reflect climate change uncertainties, but this is constrained by the high cost and complexity of modelling. We present a quick and relatively low-cost methodology to explore the implications of alternative climate change scenarios for flood frequency, and apply it for illustrative purposes, to the Hutt River located in New Zealand’s lower North Island. Annual exceedance probabilities increase under all scenarios but with considerable differences between alternative emissions scenarios and climate models. We evaluated the salience of this information for planning responses with flood management and planning practitioners. We found that ‘mind-sets’ changed to consider a greater range of response options according to their lock-in potential in existing and Greenfield urban settlements. Tools to rapidly explore alternative futures can therefore support evaluation of a wider range of response options at the exploratory stages of decision-making, which helps avoid planning responses that are predicated on historical experience and a single ‘best estimate’ scenario. This encourages responses that better reflect the changing nature of the risk.

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New Article: “Securing Ocean Benefits for Society in the Face of Climate Change”

Ruckelshaus. M. et al. (2013). Securing Ocean Benefits for Society in the Face of Climate Change. Marine Policy. 40: 154-159.

Abstract: Benefits humans rely on from the ocean – marine ecosystem services – are increasingly vulnerable under future climate. This paper reviews how three valued services have, and will continue to, shift under climate change: (1) capture fisheries, (2) food from aquaculture, and (3) protection from coastal hazards such as storms and sea-level rise. Climate adaptation planning is just beginning for fisheries, aquaculture production, and risk mitigation for coastal erosion and inundation. A few examples are highlighted, showing the promise of considering multiple ecosystem services in developing approaches to adapt to sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and rising sea temperatures.

Ecosystem-based adaptation in fisheries and along coastlines and changes in aquaculture practices can improve resilience of species and habitats to future environmental challenges. Opportunities to use market incentives – such as compensation for services or nutrient trading schemes – are relatively untested in marine systems. Relocation of communities in response to rising sea levels illustrates the urgent need to manage human activities and investments in ecosystems to provide a sustainable flow of benefits in the face of future climate change.

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New Article: ‘Translating disaster resilience into spatial planning practice in South Africa: Challenges and champions’

Van Niekerk, W. (2013). Translating disaster resilience into spatial planning practice in South Africa: Challenges and champions.  Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies. 5 (1): 1-6.

Abstract: It is highly likely that hazards and extreme climatic events will occur more frequently in the future and will become more severe – increasing the vulnerability and risk of millions of poor urbanites in developing countries. Disaster resilience aims to reduce disaster losses by equipping cities to withstand, absorb, adapt to or recover from external shocks. This paper questions whether disaster resilience is likely to be taken up in spatial planning practices in South Africa, given its immediate developmental priorities and challenges. In South Africa, issues of development take precedence over issues of sustainability, environmental management and disaster reduction. This is illustrated by the priority given to ‘servicing’ settlements compared to the opportunities offered by ‘transforming’ spaces through post-apartheid spatial planning. The City of Durban’s quest in adapting to climate change demonstrates hypothetically that if disaster resilience were to be presented as an issue distinct from what urban planners are already doing, then planners would see it as insignificant as compared to addressing the many developmental backlogs and challenges. If, however, it is regarded as a means to secure a city’s development path whilst simultaneously addressing sustainability, then disaster resilience is more likely to be translated into spatial planning practices in South Africa.

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New Article: ‘Epistemic Institutions and Epistemic Cooperation in International Environmental Governance’

Meyer, R. (2013). Epistemic Institutions and Epistemic Cooperation in International Environmental Governance. Transnational Environmental Law. DOI: 10.1017/S2047102513000010

Abstract: Under what conditions should epistemic institutions (institutions that provide policy-relevant scientific advice) be integrated into international legal institutions – for example, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change? Following work in law and economics on the theory of the firm, this article argues that where states will not implement environmental policies absent a collective decision to do so, greater hierarchical control of epistemic institutions by legal institutions may be necessary to ensure the credibility and availability of a usable scientific record. Hierarchy creates credibility because it allows all states necessary for cooperation in the legal institution to oversee the production of the scientific record that provides the basis for international legal rules. Hierarchy thus enhances the effectiveness of international law as a coordination tool, even at the expense of the autonomy of the scientific process. By contrast, where collective action is not necessary because states will unilaterally regulate an environmental problem once scientific uncertainty has been reduced, epistemic and legal institutions should be fragmented to ensure the unbiased production and dissemination of scientific information. In such situations, the credibility of the scientific record is demonstrated by decentralized adoption of science-based regulation.

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New Report – ‘Approaching the ‘Why, What and How’ of Low-Carbon Planning in South Africa’

Summary: This document presents the high-level findings from a conceptual exploratory study that considered the design of a Low Carbon Action Plan (LCAP) for South Africa, setting out the thinking of how to go about low-carbon economy planning and implementation. While developed specifically for the South African context, the approach explores a methodology which could be adopted in whole or in part by low-carbon economy planners throughout the developing world. As well as outlining the core elements of the LCAP, this document highlights some of the challenges and opportunities this process presents.

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‘Adapting to climate change through local municipal planning: barriers and challenges’

Abstract: Municipal planning represents a key avenue for local adaptation, but is subject to recognised constraints. To date, these constraints have focused on simplistic factors such as limited resources and lack of information. In this paper we argue that this focus has obscured a wider set of constraints which need to be acknowledged and addressed if adaptation is likely to advance through municipal planning. Although these recognised constraints are relevant, we argue that what underpins these issues are more fundamental challenges affecting local, placed-based planning by drawing on the related field of community-based environmental planning (CBEP). In considering a wider set of constraints to practical attempts towards adaptation, the paper considers planning based on a case study of three municipalities in Sydney, Australia in 2008. The results demonstrate that climate adaptation was widely accepted as an important issue for planning conducted by local governments. However, it was yet to be embedded in planning practice which retained a strong mitigation bias in relation to climate change. In considering the case study, we draw attention to factors thus far under-acknowledged in the climate adaptation literature. These include leadership, institutional context and competing planning agendas. These factors can serve as constraints or enabling mechanisms for achieving climate adaptation depending upon how they are exploited in any given situation. The paper concludes that, through addressing these issues, local, place-based planning can play a greater role in achieving climate adaptation.

Full Citation: Measham, T.G., Preston, B.L., Smith, T.F., Brooke, C., Goddard, R., Withycombe, G., Morrison, C. (2011). Adapting to climate change through local municipal planning: barriers and challenges, Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 1-21, DOI 10.1007/s11027-011-9301-2.

New Report – ‘Cities and Climate Change: Global Report on Human Settlements 2011′

Planners and others continue to explore how the world’s cities will be
affected by climate change in the coming decades, and this 62-page report
released by the United Nation’s Human Settlement Programme takes a close
look at the subject. This abridged version of the full report argues, “local
action is indispensable for the realization of national climate change
commitments agreed through international negotiations.” Visitors will find
that the report is divided into six chapters, including “Urbanization and
the Challenge of Climate Changes” and “The Impacts of Climate Change on
Urban Areas”. The report draws on a wide range of scholarly data taken from
UN reports, along with others working in the field of climate change and
environmental science.

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A New Report: ‘The State of African Cities 2010: Governance, Inequalities and Urban Land Markets’

The State of the African Cities 2010 goes above and beyond the first report, which provided a general overview of housing and urban management issues in Africa. With the subtitle: Governance, inequity and urban land markets, the report uncovers critical urban issues and challenges in African cities, using social and urban geography as the overall entry points. While examining poverty, slum incidence and governance, the report sheds more light on inequity in African cities, and in this respect follows the main theme of the global State of the World’s Cities 2010 report. Through a regional analysis, the report delves deeper into the main urban challenges facing African cities, while provoking dialogue and discussion on the role of African cities in improving national, regional and local economies through sustainable and equitable development. The report has been drafted in cooperation with Urban Land Mark. Through an analytical survey of several African cities, the report examines urban growth, social conditions in slums, environmental and energy issues and, especially, the role of urban land markets in accessing land and housing.

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‘DEA looking for projects to support green-economy strategy’

Engineering News, 2 August 2010

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is looking to identify potential projects that could contribute to ‘green growth’ in South Africa, and has invited industry to submit expressions of interest.

This is in response to the Green Economy Summit, which was held in May, where government, business, civil society and nongovernmental organisations committed to ensuring that South Africa moved towards a resource efficient, low carbon and proemployment growth path.

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