Climate Change, Resulting Natural Disasters and the Legal Responsibility of States

Extreme weather events, resulting from anthropogenic climate change, disproportionately affect developing States such as the Caribbean and Pacific Islands, yet these states make a relatively small contribution to climate change compared to developed States and emerging markets. This book examines the legal responsibility of states with regard to post-disaster reconstruction and the duty to provide early warning from the perspective of various areas of international law, particularly as no specific, singular public international law instrument is applicable or responsible.
Alexandra Birchler
book | published | 1st edition
December 2020 | xxxviii + 230 pp.



ISBN 9781839700309



ISBN 9781839701085

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Extreme weather events, such as cyclones and hurricanes, are increasing in their frequency and intensity. This increase has been scientifically linked to global warming, which is induced by anthropogenic climate change. This phenomenon is disproportionately affecting developing States, such as the Caribbean and Pacific Islands, even though they are not contributing to climate change to the same extent as developed States or emerging markets, and having a devastating effect on people and their livelihoods. This book examines two critical aspects of this situation, to which no specific, singular source in public international law is applicable or responsible.

This book first examines the manner in which public international law, in particular international environmental law and customary public international law, is applicable to the question of funding for reconstruction and early warning systems by developed States and emerging markets. As the intensity and frequency of these events increases, so does the requirement for funding, with the aim of improving vulnerable States’ resilience to climate-related devastation. While there are several schemes in place in order to secure funding for either early warning systems or postdisaster
reconstruction, such as donations or insurance solutions, there is no specific instrument in public international law that deals with the question of whether developed States and emerging markets have an obligation to financially assist disaster-prone developing States with regard to the establishment of early warning systems and reconstruction in the wake of natural disasters.

This book also analyses the right to receive humanitarian assistance and the State’s obligation to provide early warning. In the aftermath of a calamitous event, the victims are largely dependent on the Sate and its capacity to organise and accept, if necessary, international humanitarian assistance. If the affected State refuses to do so, the consequences for the victims can be disastrous. With regard to humanitarian assistance, the book focuses on the application of human rights law on the international as well as regional levels, such as the African human rights system for example. In addition, the book outlines the doctrine of the responsibility to protect in this context and its practical limits in particular. As concerns the question of whether there is an obligation to provide early warning, this is assessed through an analysis of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, also taking into account the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Human Rights system.

Throughout its discussion of legal responsibility under international law resulting from climate change-induced natural disasters, this book takes into account the new developments around the International Law Commission’s project on the “Protection of Persons in the Event of Disasters”, which is now considered for treaty adoption.


ALEXANDRA BIRCHLER is corporate legal counsel at an insurance firm in Zurich, Switzerland. She holds a joint doctorate in law from the University of Lucerne, Switzerland, and the University of Wollongong, Australia.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents and Preliminary Pages (p. 0)

Alexandra Birchler

Chapter 1. Introduction and Legal Framework (p. 1)

Alexandra Birchler

Part I. Obligation and Responsibility of the not Affected States Before and in the Aftermath of a Disaster

Chapter 2. Financing Early Warning Mechanisms (p. 57)

Chapter 3. Funding for the Reconstruction Phase (p. 99)

Part II. Obligation and Responsibility of the Affected State Before, During and in the Aftermath of a Disaster

Chapter 4. The Responsibility of the Affected State During and in the Aftermath of a Disaster (p. 135)

Chapter 5. The Responsibility of the Affected State Before the Disaster (p. 185)

Chapter 6. Conclusions and Proposed Actions (p. 205)

Open access content

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Table of Contents and Preliminary Pages (p. 0)
Alexandra Birchler
Chapter 2. Financing Early Warning Mechanisms (p. 57)
Alexandra Birchler