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This workshop, held on Oct. 17, 2008, was an attempt to bring this scholarship together for a wider dissemination of work, and to also examine areas for future scholarship and collaboration. The workshop had sharing of information on research and projects, and also provided a forum to consider the bigger picture of climate change adaptation law, including inquiry into where adaptation regimes are needed, i.e. banking, insurance, public health, disaster response, water; and with what principles should policy proposals for alteration of existing legal regimes be determined, i.e. equity, benefit-cost analysis, precautionary principle, etc.

Climate change is not only an accepted scientific fact, all evidence points towards comprehensive federal regulation of CO2 as well as a post-Kyoto, world-wide regime. Much of the legal attention with respect to climate change has been focused, appropriately, on these efforts at mitigating and slowing the ongoing addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. There has been much less legal attention paid to the legal and regulatory regimes that should govern adaptation in a climate-changed world.

Several U.S. environmental law and natural resource scholars have begun examining how and whether domestic resource legal regimes, such as the ESA or water allocations, should respond to changing climate. There has also been recent examination of the effect of climate change on public health and certain business regulatory environments. Attention has recently focused on various types of compensation schemes.

We hope that addressing these questions can assist scholars, policy makers, and political entities with beginning the systematic analysis of proposals for new climate change adaptation regimes.

Important Results Include:

  1. A recognition that the world, and thus legal regimes that govern society, will be changed not only directly by climate change, but also by attempts to mitigate and manage that change.
  2. Identification of legal regimes that will be affected by climate change. These include:
    • Local and state laws relating to land use and zoning
    • Business/Banking/Insurance/Intellectual Property
    • Availability and Use of Natural Resources
    • Public Health
    • Disaster Relief and Response
  3. In noting how laws should be adapted, original policy purposes should be respected because they were determined in an open forum with deliberate debate.
  4. Assent that in addition to efficiency, law and policy makers must also consider issues of justice and equity in revising legal regimes. In particular, based on environmental justice core principles and principles in the United Nations Framework on Climate Change that are to be used in addressing climate change, those considering legal regime alteration, should:
  5. protect the most vulnerable
    • seek knowledge from locally affected groups
    • establish appropriate communication protocols to allow for effective input
    • provide resources for inclusion of affected groups
    • work towards a better outcome particularly for the most impacted or environmentally damaged communities.
  6. Thus, in reviewing existing legal regimes for adapting, it is important to consider and try to preserve the original purposes of the legislation; to make changes in an efficient manner, and that distirbutional impacts should be considered.
  7. Much uncertainty surrounds climate change and long term impacts. One of the best ways to move forward in the face of uncertainty is to focus on legal regimes that can benefit from change without regard to pace or uncertainty of climate change, i.e. public health, insurance reform, and increasing pressures on resources.
  8. Preparation of a template for examining whether and how a legal area could or should be altered in the face of climate change.
  9. Discussion in groups as to how this template would apply to identified areas of the law.
UNC School of Law | Van Hecke-Wettach Hall | 160 Ridge Road, CB #3380 | Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380 | 919.962.5106


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