Lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic in future crises

The researchers in the project are examining best practice among the approaches adopted by different countries to the Covid-19 pandemic. Their aim is to ascertain the action that can be taken in other crisis situations without disproportionately compromising human rights and the rule of law.

In particular, the researchers want to gain insights from the political and legal aspects of Covid-19 approaches that they can apply to an emergency of a different kind – the climate crisis.

The corona pandemic and climate change pose many similar challenges: both are enormous societal problems with disastrous, non-linear consequences. Both are polycentric and do not recognize legal boundaries. 

But the researchers believe that one significant difference concerns their time horizons, which are perceived differently. In general, climate change is seen as something that will impact us for multiple decades to come, so action does not seem as urgent as with Covid-19. But in fact the climate crisis demands immediate and drastic action. This means it is vital to ascertain how action to combat climate change can be taken in a politically and legally balanced and proportionate way.

The research team intends to identify the political and legal safeguards that have accompanied Covid-19 measures in selected European jurisdictions. From these they intend to identify best practice, which can be employed in dealing with other threats of a similar magnitude, particularly the climate crisis. 

The aims of the project are as follows.

  • To examine crisis situation and state of emergency laws and their operation in an EU constitutional legal framework, focusing on Germany and France, as well as four major Nordic nations (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden).
  • To survey the risks posed by these laws to human rights and the rule of law.
  • To highlight best practice in politics and law, focusing on the Nordic countries.
  • To use that best practice as a basis for proposing the crisis and state of emergency legislation that should be used in other emergencies, in particular the climate crisis.

The project is founded on two premises. The first is that the Covid-19 crisis has revealed a number of legal and political principles that should inform the implementation of emergency measures in order to safeguard the rule of law. The researchers call this a “superficial premise”. The second premise is that the emergency measures taken in the current pandemic can be transposed to climate change. They regard this as a “deep premise”. The first premise is normative and forms the basis for the prescriptive discussion concerning the second premise. In summary, the researchers intend to learn from best practice in political and legal Covid-19 measures, and use this as a means of giving clear guidance on how states and society at large should – and should not – act in relation to the climate crisis.

Understanding constitutional safeguards for state of emergency: the case of Covid-19 and prospects for climate change action

Principal investigator:
Xavier Groussot

Sanja Bogojevic

Lund University

SEK 7.5 million