Climate Change, Law, and Politics

Synopsis

What is climate change, how does it affect us, and what can we do about it? This module provides an overview of a looming civilizational crisis and possible responses to it. It follows an interdisciplinary perspective, involving in particular climate science, economics, ethics, psychology, laws, and politics.

Class time

  • Mon 17 – Fri 21 July, 9:30 – 11:30am, LSK 514
  • Mon 24 – Tue 25 July, 2017, 9:30 – 11:30am, LSK 302

Materials

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change

Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Paris Agreement

Hong Kong Action Plan 2030+

China’s Nationally Determined Contribution

Website of the UNFCCC

Website of Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department

Syllabus

Session 1 (Monday 17 July): The causes of climate change

Slides

Outlines: A general background on the science of climate change: what causes change in our climate? How do we know it? How robust is scientific evidence?

In-class exercise: explore sources of greenhouse gases

Session 2 (Tuesday 18 July): The impacts of climate change

Slides

Outlines: An exploration of the consequences of climate change on physical, biological, social and economic systems; concepts of feedback mechanism, tipping point, and runway climate change.

In-class exercise: identify impacts of climate change in Hong Kong

Session 3 (Wednesday 19 July): International cooperation

Slides

Outlines: Ethical grounds to addressing climate change; economic theory of cooperation to avoid a tragedy of the commons; political aspects of a “blame game” between developed and developing countries.

In-class exercise: Mini model United Nations exercise, part 1: find the circumstances of your country

Session 4 (Thursday 20 July): Climate change mitigation: international law

Slides

Outlines: International law; customary international law; treaties: UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement; non-binding agreements: Copenhagen Accord, Cancún Agreements; flexibility mechanisms and support.

In-class exercise: Mini model United Nations exercise, part 2: prepare the outlines of your arguments

Session 5 (Friday 21 July): Climate change mitigation: municipal laws (first part)

Slides

Outlines: Command and control; price-based mechanisms; leadership role; the possibility of litigation; Hong Kong mitigation efforts.

In-class exercise: Mini model United Nations exercise, part 3: state your national position

Session 6 (Monday 24 July): Climate change mitigation: municipal laws (second part)

Slides

Outlines: background on geoengineering techniques: solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal (carbon capture and storage); ethical debates on whether and, if so, how geoengineering techniques should be used; the law.

In-class exercise: debate on geoengineering

Session 7 (Monday 25 July): Adaptation to climate change

Slides

Outlines: concepts of adaptation, “loss and damage”; international cooperation and assistance.

In-class exercise: debate on adaptation action in Hong Kong.