Research Handbooks in Environmental Law series
Edited by Jonathan Verschuuren
Chapter 2: Climate change adaptation under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and related documents
It is fair to say that adaptation law originates at the international level. Both the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (hereafter: UNFCCC), and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol comprise various obligations for the parties to these international agreements to adopt and implement adaptation policies. The documents also impose upon developed countries the duty to, both financially and practically, assist developing countries with their adaptation actions. In the inter- national arena, most attention is going to the latter issue, as will be obvious from the overview of the most important adaptation related actions both under the UNFCCC (section 2) and under the Kyoto Protocol (section 3). In section 4, some remarks will be made as to the impact of the UNFCCC’s work on adaptation on regional and domestic law and policy. The primary objective of the UNFCCC, as laid down in Article 2, is to achieve stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a timeframe sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner. Mitigation, according to the objective of the UNFCCC, is supposed to be successful so that ecosystems, food production, and the economy are more or less automatically kept as they were before. Fifteen years later, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sounded the alarm bell.
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