Justice and adaptation to climate change

TitleJustice and adaptation to climate change
Publication TypeTyndall Working Paper
SeriesTyndall Centre Working Papers
Tyndall Consortium Institution


Secondary TitleTyndall Centre Working Paper 23
AuthorsPaavola, J., and W. N. Adger
Year of Publication2002

Adaptation to climate change presents dilemmas of justice to the international community, including those around the responsibility of developed countries to assist developing countries in adapting to changing climate. We propose a framework for analysing justice issues in these contexts and examine justice implications of international environmental law on adaptation. We argue that adaptation involves both distributive and procedural justice; the former focusing on the incidence of consequences of adaptive responses and the latter on how decisions on adaptation are made. Moreover, both consequentialist and deontological concerns must be recognised in the two areas of justice. Adaptation is comprised of inaction and proactive and reactive responses at the international, national, local and individual levels. Inaction at higher levels delegates the responsibility for adaptation to lower levels, and higher-level responses influence alternatives that are available at lower levels. Justice is thus always implicit in the choice of adaptive responses. We discuss how international law on adaptation expresses a commitment to assist developing countries but does not provide a clear foundation for it and does not resolve how the burden of funding ought to be shared and how the adaptation funds ought to be distributed. The Marrakech Accords of the Framework Convention on Climate Change have increased the emphasis on procedural justice, such as the role of developing countries in decisions on adaptation. While creating ways to acknowledge and hear developing country and local voices, the recent legal changes do not create full rights to participation in decision-making on adaptive responses.

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