Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico

Vulnerability As Protection Or Exclusion? Vulnerability And Responses To Climate Change And Covid-19. - 19 November 2020

Please note that this event has passed.

This event will be hosted virtually via Microsoft Teams Meetings. Please register to receive the link.

Event abstract

The idea that certain groups of people face a greater level of risk or exposure to danger is increasingly expressed in law and in policy through the concept of vulnerability. It is a concept found in a number of different areas of law and public policy, but it has played a particularly important role in law, policy and debate on climate change and, more recently, the COVID19 pandemic.

While the idea of vulnerability is meant to help policy-makers identify those in need of greater social or legal protection, responses to both COVID19 and to the threats posed by climate change suggest that ‘vulnerability’ might sometimes be a problematic designation. In the context of climate policy, ‘vulnerability’ may shift our focus from mitigation to adaptation and thus shift the burden of action from those who cause climate change to those who suffer its impacts. In the context of COVID19, the idea of vulnerability may have resulted in an underplaying of the risk for the whole population and even the suggestion that the interests of the vulnerable few should not take priority over the economic interests of the many. So what does vulnerability mean in these contexts and what role should it play in legal responses to the threats of climate change or global pandemic?

Convener: Dr. Dina Lupin Townsend, University of Vienna, Department of Philosophy, Austria

Event speakers

Dr Elizabeth Mills, Senior Lecturer, International Development, Department of Anthropology, School of Global Studies, Sussex University, United Kingdom

Dr Nadia Sitas, Senior Researcher, Center for Complex Systems in Transition, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa

Dr Monika Mayrhofer, Senior Researcher, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Human Rights, Vienna, Austria

Dr Bérénice K. Schramm, Assistant Professor of Law, Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul, Turkey


In this panel, speakers are invited to explore the idea of vulnerability in the context of climate change and COVID-19:

- What does vulnerability mean?

- Who is vulnerable? What are the implications of the majority of the population (women, migrants, children, the elderly, the sick, Indigenous peoples, rural peoples) being described as 'uniquely' or 'especially' vulnerable to climate change impacts?

- Does the concept of vulnerability help bring awareness to the plight of marginalized groups or does it further marginalize/exclude certain groups?

- How does or should vulnerability impact regulatory and policy responses?

- What do our experiences with COVID-19 teach us about state responses to vulnerability in emergency conditions?

- Do vulnerable groups bear a greater burden to adapt to climate change? What should this teach us about responses to COVID-19?

Search for another event

Event details

19 November 2020