Governments’ Responses to Climate Change: Selected Examples From Asia Pacific


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It is likewise drawn from the work, experiences, and lessons of other institutions and research programs working on related subject matter. Networks and Linkages.

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Learning Events. Biotechnology Climate Change Food and Nutrition. Despite efforts to discourage settlement in vulnerable locations, regular disaster drills, and the construction of massive concrete coastal defence infrastructure, loss of life occurs repeatedly when tsunami strike. Miyako too is shrinking, losing more than a quarter since Older people are especially vulnerable to disasters McMillan, ; Ngo, During Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the Gulf coast nursing home residents were unable to evacuate independently and triage protocols prevented treatment for chronic conditions.

Similarly, in , Mainly for mobility reasons many older people were unable to reach safety and we can assume that many disabled — who are often older — also fell victim. Ageing and depopulation are global phenomena, and Japan is in the vanguard in Asia. China, South Korea, and Taiwan are rapidly ageing and expect to begin depopulating soon. Even relatively youthful Anglophone societies with higher rates of immigration such as New Zealand are experiencing ageing and depopulation processes sub-nationally and in disaster prone areas Jackson and Brabyn, ; Jackson and Felmingham, ; McMillan, All these countries are located on the Pacific Ring of Fire and experience frequent tectonic events.

Then there is climate change and its transformative contribution to the dynamics of human-environmental interactions. Of these, 85 had parent earthquakes in the Japan Trench. Eleven of the most powerful are shown in Figure 2. Hence, although earthquakes along the Japan Trench can occur in a regular sequence, unexpected combinations of events also occur. Drawing on the example of , which included a serious accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, in the 21st century it is reasonable to assume that powerful earthquakes and tsunami are likely to intersect with other risk vectors - climate change and industrial infrastructure - to generate compound techno-environmental events of great complexity and severity Matanle, Hence, in the townspeople began to build a huge defensive seawall.

This was in addition to port breakwaters and a bank of concrete tetrapods at the mouth of the ria facing east towards the Japan Trench for advance protection Figure 3; Photo 1. In total 2,m of seawall at a height of This included the Mw9. Since the walls prevented damage from relatively common smaller tsunami, they were assumed to be sufficient. Shortly after 3. The main reason for the infrastructure failure was over-confidence in predicting the maximum magnitude of future earthquakes as well as the height and strength of associated tsunami.

Neither of these studies, however, anticipated the Mw9. This was standard for Mw8. Possibly this did not provide enough evacuation time for some of those who had been slow respond to the initial warning. He suggested that, although they had felt the earthquake, the high walls prevented them from seeing the approaching wave, nor were they rushing to evacuate due to their sense of safety behind the walls. Although the proportion of casualties in was lower than in the two most serious recent tsunami, at 3.

Importantly, his research shows that social capital is also a better predictor for post-disaster survival and recovery, with communities possessing higher levels of capital recovering more rapidly Finally, the failure of seawall 2 Figure 3 may have had a negative impact on survival. It is sensible to assume tsunami defences are more effective if they remain standing.

Assuming the continuation of current conditions and the successful experience of Fudai Village in with overtopping, the new seawall will likely save considerable life and damage. We now proceed to analysing the new defences and their emerging 21st century context. On 1 June Miyako City began formulating its basic reconstruction plan and, after a series of open meetings on matters such as housing, education, health, transportation, and industry, presented a basic plan to citizens on 14 October.

Citizens had four days to respond before the City Office finalised the plan on 31 October. Since then the City Office has regularly consulted residents about their reactions to current progress and delivery, though the extent to which citizen voices are genuinely incorporated into plans, or whether local authorities have sufficiently communicated their rationales to citizens, is contested.


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Noteworthy aspects are:. As the photos show, there is much to do and it is possible the plans are unrealistically costly in reconstructing what is already an ageing and shrinking community which in future decades, and in all likelihood, will not require all of the housing, services, and infrastructure being built under the present plans Matanle, Photos Clockwise from the top. Click on the photos for a slideshow and hyperlinks for a Google Earth view. Google Earth view. Built-up areas close to the coast often rely on a seawall alone, or a harbour with breakwaters.

Tetrapods are also deployed either onshore or near-shore. Level 1 events are considered tsunami protection events and assumed to occur every to years, with inundation depths of less than m. Under this classification, post defences are designed to contain Level 1 events and allow Level 2 events to overtop walls without destroying them, as happened in Fudai in , with overtopping seawater being collected in a land side canal running parallel Raby et al , In addition, the specifications prevent land-side scouring caused by retreating waters pulling seaward, allowing subsequent waves to flow through destroyed defences.

In addition, the harbor breakwaters and near-shore tetrapods are being strengthened, replaced and expanded in size and scope, giving the town four lines of concrete defence, as opposed to three in Photos July Nevertheless, questions arise as to whether, by constructing defences to prevent a recurrence of the previous disaster, the authorities are adequately imagining and preparing for a changing future. Significantly, the Japanese government acknowledges the relationship between anthropogenic climate change and rising sea levels.

Between and an earthquake in the Japan Trench leading to a fatal tsunami in Iwate Prefecture has occurred on average every years Table 4.

Five have resulted in more than 1, deaths, killing approximately 55, people; on average, they occurred every years. However, the timing of the , and tsunami shows that earthquakes involving mass fatalities are not temporally equidistant See: Lay, ; Smits, Hence, while it could be argued the earthquake was unexpected, it was not unimaginable.

It was the fourth most powerful on Earth since modern records began in , came less than seven years after the Mw9. Before , Rahmstorf estimated sea level will rise 0. Even so, estimates of the rate of sea level rise are regularly revised, usually upwards, as knowledge of ice sheet melting and analogous paleoclimatic conditions accumulates and scenario modelling improves. Some argue that IPCC projections are too cautious. In the USA this includes new infrastructure, land use modifications, and repair and retrofitting of coastal facilities EPA, Recently adaptation there has begun to include nature-based features NNBFs within a mix of hard, soft, and green infrastructure Hill, ; Bridges, Climate change adaptation is usually incremental.

Nevertheless, where human systems may be suddenly overwhelmed, where longer timescales are involved, or where incrementalism is insufficient, transformational adaptation may be required. Moreover, they set two conditions for implementation; whether there is large vulnerability in certain regions, populations, or resource systems; and whether climate change threatens to overwhelm even robust human systems. Ageing and depopulation are increasing community vulnerability and, because these settlements are permanently at risk from tsunami, climate change driven sea level rise has potential to contribute to suddenly overwhelming defence infrastructure.

None associated climate change with sea level rise, and there were no references to sea level rise as an additional hazard for tsunami defence infrastructure. Although combined scenario modelling of sea level rise and tsunami risks is still rare, the scientific literature now takes it seriously. And Ramanamurthy et al advise that:. Internationally, acknowledgement of climate change as an additional risk for tsunami vulnerability is increasing See: Hinkel et al , Finally, Li et al emphasise that they use conservative estimates for sea level rise — that current research suggests a 1.

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The ria coastline of Iwate Prefecture is one such coastline. The Japanese authorities have not included estimates for the effects of climate change on sea levels and future tsunami height and frequency, despite scientific research emerging that sea level rise places coastal communities at elevated risk. In the event of a Level 1 tsunami they will likely prevent considerable damage and save lives. Nevertheless, important though the social capital perspective is in demanding the development of systems of mutual aid in local communities at risk of disaster, it is necessarily one part of implementing a disaster prevention strategy that responds to the whole spectrum of risks involved in complex techno-environmental events and acknowledges the need for transformational adaptation to the impacts of climate change.

At the start of this article we argued that discussions of climate change mitigation are beyond our scope. In many respects, however, mitigation is necessarily part of any truly transformational adaptation strategy since, for example, climate change requires radical decarbonisation in response.

Indeed, does not transformational adaption therefore require a reconfiguration of the social and economic system beyond removing fossil fuels towards a deprioritisation of growth in favour of resilience and sustainability? Five months later Kan was forced to resign. Ever since the Meiji period , the use of concrete infrastructure to resolve contradictions between the logic of modern development and the perceived constraints of nature has been deeply institutionalised in Japan. Through the ages a common strategic error has been to prepare for the past by failing to imagine the future.

Nearly a century later and facing the twin 21st century challenges of depopulation and global warming, Japan is potentially in the vanguard of a transformation to a sustainable post-growth order in Asia See: DeWit, ; Matanle, Instead, the Construction State Feldhoff, ; McCormack, and its logic of modern developmentalism as a defensive bulwark against the assumed destructive encroachments of nature remains in place.

Sea-levels will likely rise more rapidly and higher than much of the science on climate change at present suggests. Consequently, even the most highly regarded coastal defence projects, such as those in the Netherlands and Venice, may have shorter lives than publicly acknowledged due to the rapid onset of climate change and its impacts on human-environmental relationships. It is disconcerting for us to observe the lack of acknowledgement of sea level rise among governments and engineers, whilst planning projects intended to last for more than 50 years.

Humanity has a limited time window to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of global warming. We have known for many decades, if not a century or more, that environmental systems are sensitive to human activity, and that positive feedback loops can exacerbate and accelerate changes already under way. The authors would like to thank the Japan Foundation Endowment Committee for fieldwork funding for this research, and Professor Kenji Tani of Saitama University for use of topographic data from his website.

Aldrich, D. Trust deficit: Japanese communities and the challenge of rebuilding Tohoku, Japan Forum , 29 1 , The physical and social determinants of mortality in the 3. Arrhenius, S. Online at the Royal Society of Chemistry website. The concept of a human rights-based approach has evolved most extensively in the literature relating to development. The practical value of a human rights-based approach lies in the following:.

This section discusses how a human rights-based approach would apply in relation to current responses to climate change in Australia; namely domestic adaptation measures, aid for overseas adaptation and disaster management. Recognising that climate change is likely to continue even with successful mitigation measures, governments have been providing financial and other forms of support to affected communities so that they can adapt to the impact of changing conditions.


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Adaptation measures, taken in advance, can reduce the risks and limit the damage caused by climate change. In addition, in February the Council of Australian Governments developed the National Climate Change Adaptation Framework which seeks to reduce the vulnerability of water resources, biodiversity, coastal regions, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, health, tourism and settlements to the impacts of climate change.

It also seeks to establish an Australian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation to provide decision-makers with relevant information on climate change impacts, vulnerability and adaptation options. In responding to climate change through adaptation measures Australia is already, in fact, avoiding many of the resulting threats to human rights.

For example:. Nevertheless, to date the ascendance of adaptation measures to the centre-stage of national policy has largely been driven by recognition of the high economic costs that accompany climate change. Applying a human rights-based approach, decision-makers should be guided by the core minimum human rights standards when weighing competing demands on limited resources. The content of some of the key human rights affected by climate change are articulated in the General Comments of the UN human rights treaty bodies, which provide one basis for developing the standards and measures to apply when evaluating whether a particular policy meets its human rights requirements.

To take but one example, in accordance with General Comment 15 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the relocation of a community would have to ensure that the minimum requirements of fresh water currently calculated by the World Health Organisation at 7. That water must be physically and financially accessible to all, without discrimination on the grounds of sex, age, or economic or social standing, and without threatening personal security when the water is obtained. In addition, decision-makers must avoid the presumption that all efforts to address the impact of climate change will be utilitarian and thus result in an evenly distributed net benefit to the Australian community.

The reality is that climate change responses are likely to exacerbate already existing social inequity. A human rights-based approach addresses these equity issues. By focusing on individuals as rights-holders responsibility is placed on government to allow for participation and input from affected members of society into the development of adaptation policies.

At a procedural level, this approach requires transparent and participatory decision-making, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. This means making specific channels available for the participation of the poorest and most marginalised groups in the community, with sensitivity to social and cultural context. Thus, when a climate change policy is proposed, decision-makers would identify its likely impact on the most disadvantaged or vulnerable, with data disaggregated as far as possible according to the prohibited grounds of discrimination, e.

This could be achieved by requiring that all new legislative-based policies concerning climate-change adaptation be accompanied by a human rights compliance statement. Where either the policy or enabling legislation does not meet recognised human right norms, for example by disproportionately impacting indigenous people, the statement must identify and explain the reasons for the shortcoming and the policy should be reconsidered.

Furthermore the principles that underpin the development of adaptation measures in Australia are equally applicable when providing assistance for adaptation overseas. Research commonly concludes that developing countries remain disproportionately affected by climate change. This is for two main reasons:. Recognising this, the UNFCCC places international obligations on state parties to help developing nations meet the costs of climate change adaptation and develop regional mitigation and adaptation programs.

There is a strong case for Australia to play a greater role in overcoming this adaptation apartheid. Climate change has the potential to create humanitarian disasters, ecological collapse and knock-on socio-economic effects — none of which will respect national borders. Furthermore, if the countries that carry primary responsibility for the problem are perceived to turn a blind-eye to the consequences, the resentment and anger that will follow could foster conditions for political extremism.

However, financing levels themselves will not be the only determinant of the success of a response — it is important that the right kind s of responses are being funded. While there is no blueprint for an effective response, when considering how Australia can improve its international adaptation efforts, a human rights-based approach is instructive.

Through a human rights-based approach aid should focus on poverty-reduction, strengthening communities from the bottom up, building on their own coping strategies to live with climate change and empowering them to participate in the development of climate change policies.

Even with effective adaptation, the scale and frequency of natural disasters, both in Australia and across the world, will increase as a result of climate change. This increase is already evident. In particular they project that by ongoing coastal development and population growth will exacerbate risks from sea level rise and increase the severity and frequency of storms and coastal flooding, [94] exposing large quantities of people, wealth and infrastructure to extreme weather events as a result of climate change.

Australia has already begun to implement policies to respond to these risks and has relatively advanced disaster warning and response capabilities.

Nonetheless, Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast of the United States in August , was a powerful reminder that even well-resourced countries can struggle dramatically to deal with the effects of a natural disaster. For developing countries, the impact of climate change-induced natural disasters is likely to be much more severe and long-term. These countries are generally more geographically vulnerable and lack adequate financial resources for effective adaptation and response mechanisms.

Persons affected by natural disasters face multiple human rights challenges. They may encounter problems such as: unequal access to assistance; discrimination in aid provision; enforced relocation; sexual and gender-based violence; loss of documentation; unsafe or involuntary return or resettlement; and issues of property restitution.

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Affected populations are most often forced to leave their homes or places of residence because of the destruction of houses. Natural disasters also have a disproportionate impact on already marginalised groups, as was clearly highlighted by Hurricane Katrina. The statistics speak for themselves:. Response efforts that fail to recognise the disproportionate impact of natural disasters on marginalised groups exacerbates their vulnerability.

This issue was illustrated by the relief effort following the Indian Ocean Tsunami in December , where government policies and practices reinforced rather than challenged social divisions. This meant that many female widows were left without any right to restitution or compensation in the post-disaster redistribution process.

In its response to climate change-induced disasters, in Australia or overseas, the government has an obligation to address these inequities. Adopting a human rights-based approach achieves this, by linking natural disaster policy to international human rights law. This link emphasises the duty of states to facilitate, and the right of individuals to access, disaster relief on a non-discriminatory basis. Under these guidelines:.

In addition, longer-term efforts to rebuild and reconstruct after a disaster must not merely focus on the redevelopment of infrastructure. Again, Hurricane Katrina highlights the problems of such an approach. The UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing and the UN Independent Expert on Minority Issues have recently expressed concern about the ongoing housing difficulties faced by residents who had been displaced by the hurricane, with the demolition of public housing in New Orleans.

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They state:. The authorities claim that the demolition of public housing is not intentionally discriminatory. Not withstanding the validity of these claims, the lack of consultation with those affected and the disproportionate impact on poorer and predominately African-American residents and former residents would result in the denial of internationally recognised rights. Post-disaster reconstruction must adopt a human rights-based approach to ensure that such reconstruction efforts do not discriminate on gender, racial or ethnic grounds; that the rights of children are adequately addressed; and that property rights of the poor and vulnerable are respected.

This reduces the possibility of conflict between groups and ensures that post-disaster reconstruction is not only just but also sustainable. When mitigation and adaptation strategies are ineffective, the displacement of communities will be the inevitable consequence. One of the most significant impacts of climate change, therefore, will be the migration of people, not only within the boundaries of their countries, but across borders and across oceans.

Oxford academic Norman Myers has predicted that by up to million people may be forced to migrate because of the impacts of global warming. Much of the anticipated displacement will be in Asia. Instead, they anticipate that most of those in the region will relocate within their own country and that those that do cross an international border are likely to seek refuge in states where they have strong cultural or ethnic ties. However, the Lowy Institute does acknowledge that Australia will not be completely immune from climate-induced migration and must expect increased migratory pressure from the region.

To date there has been no coordinated response from the international community to address the situation of populations displaced due to the impacts of climate change, which leaves it to the goodwill of an individual state to accept them.

Governments’ Responses to Climate Change: Selected Examples From Asia Pacific Governments’ Responses to Climate Change: Selected Examples From Asia Pacific
Governments’ Responses to Climate Change: Selected Examples From Asia Pacific Governments’ Responses to Climate Change: Selected Examples From Asia Pacific
Governments’ Responses to Climate Change: Selected Examples From Asia Pacific Governments’ Responses to Climate Change: Selected Examples From Asia Pacific
Governments’ Responses to Climate Change: Selected Examples From Asia Pacific Governments’ Responses to Climate Change: Selected Examples From Asia Pacific
Governments’ Responses to Climate Change: Selected Examples From Asia Pacific Governments’ Responses to Climate Change: Selected Examples From Asia Pacific
Governments’ Responses to Climate Change: Selected Examples From Asia Pacific Governments’ Responses to Climate Change: Selected Examples From Asia Pacific
Governments’ Responses to Climate Change: Selected Examples From Asia Pacific Governments’ Responses to Climate Change: Selected Examples From Asia Pacific

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