Research Handbooks in Environmental Law series
Edited by Jonathan Verschuuren
Chapter 11: Climate change adaptation and biodiversity law
Climate change appears to be adding significant new challenges to the array of anthropogenic threats already faced by wild flora and fauna, the ecosystems of which they are part, and biological diversity (biodiversity) at large – that is, the variability of life on Earth. The composition of ecosystems is profoundly affected, as species’ ranges are shifting in response to altering climatic conditions, and populations struggle to cope with increasingly frequent extreme weather events. Unsurprisingly, climate change is also posing significant challenges to biodiversity law (alternatively referred to as nature conservation law) at national, regional and global levels. It is now evident that in order to meet (inter)national biodiversity targets specific conservation action is required to help species adapt to climate change with minimal losses. This imperative to help nature adapt to climate change was not apparent at the time most of the existing legal instruments aimed at nature conservation came into being. The leading paradigm for most conservation instruments is maintaining or restoring the status quo rather than facilitating change. It is also evident that climate change substantially augments the need for international cooperation in biodiversity conservation. In line with the central objective of this book, the current chapter is intended to contribute to the identification of the legal challenges involved in the adaptation of biodiversity, and of biodiversity law, to climate change, and of suitable ways to address these challenges. In doing so, the chapter focuses primarily, albeit not exclusively, on international legal instruments.
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