Chapter 7: Climate change adaptation and public health law
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This chapter addresses the important linkages between climate change adaptation policy and the rapidly growing fields of public health law and global health law. Public health law is concerned with the legal powers and duties of the state to assure the conditions for people to be healthy and the limitations on the power of the state to constrain the autonomy, privacy, liberty, proprietary, or other legally protected interests of individuals for the common good. At the international level, public health law becomes global health law. The chapter concludes that legal obligations regarding climate change adaptation are uniquely positioned to reorient global public health law in ways that promote cost-effective, equity-promoting upstream interventions that are being neglected by current frameworks. If self-interest and security continue to be the dominant justification for international cooperation with respect to health, the appropriate priorities for health adaptation to climate change will remain neglected, and untold numbers will continue to suffer. The UNFCCC principle of common but differentiated responsibility is a far more appropriate as a guiding norm for health adaptation. Law reform aimed at climate adaptation has the potential to promote a responsibility-based justification for prioritizing global public health as a supplement to the security-based justifications that currently dominate the relevant legal frameworks. Whether this potential is realized, however, remains to be seen. The Covid-19 pandemic is a wake-up call. Whether the global community will respond by strengthening infrastructure, investing in human resources and making concrete commitments to meet the basic needs of the world's most vulnerable populations remains to be seen.

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