Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Climate Change Dispute Resolution

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posted on 2024-05-10, 03:06 authored by Annabel Shaw

Climate change is the biggest threat humankind has been called to face. It threatens the very survival of our species and planet. This thesis considers the climate crisis from a dispute resolution (DR) perspective. More specifically, the disputes arising as a consequence of climate change and the way in which they are, and should be, addressed. These disputes are unique and require specific consideration given they concern an imminent threat to human survival, involve highly vulnerable parties and fundamental power imbalances, and are burgeoning in complexity and volume. A cursory consideration suggests that the current approach to these climate change disputes is not effective, as climate change worsens and related disputes increase. This assumption, however, has not yet been demonstrated by evidence-based examination. Although there is research considering particular types of climate change disputes (such as, those based on human rights), specific DR processes (such as, negotiation or adjudication) and aspects of effectiveness (such as, the impact of adjudication on mitigation) there is no work that examines and assesses the full scope of climate change disputes and DR processes. As a result, there is no substantiated basis on which climate change disputes can be most effectively identified, understood, resolved or prevented. In order to address these problems, this thesis provides a comprehensive map of climate change disputes and the current DR system for addressing them. It also formulates and applies a mechanism for assessing the effectiveness of that system, one that includes and prioritises addressing climate change itself. On the basis of the resulting assessment, which demonstrates deficiencies in the current climate change DR system, this thesis proceeds to recommend specific improvements to enhance that system’s efficacy. It concludes that the most effective way to address climate change disputes is through a system that supports the climate response, is comprehensive, cohesive, deliberate, adaptable, preventative, and, in large part, relies on more and better use of innovative alternative DR processes. Although this recommended approach requires changes in the way DR is conceived and delivered, it is vital this occur given that climate change disputes are escalating, and will continue to do so, as more individuals, communities, states, and ecosystems are impacted, and the urgency with which we must face the climate crisis grows. Climate change requires bold action on every front, including through our DR system.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains All Rights

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

190199 Adaptation to climate change not elsewhere classified

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

2 Strategic basic research



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Law


Morris, Grant; Costi, Alberto