Are current environmental laws sufficient to deal with rapid changes? •

Major law reform may not be entirely necessary to tackle the global climate change crisis, according to a team of environmental law experts. Existing laws may have enough untapped potential to deal with environmental change.

In order to combat the effects of climate change, adaptation – of both ecosystems and socio-ecological systems – must occur, the researchers said. Currently, some global government systems, such as those in the United States and the European Union, are considering overhauling their legislatures to address climate change. However, some government officials are unlikely to engage in such an overhaul and therefore halt adaptation and transformation efforts.

Knowing this, the research team offers solutions to the lack of legislative reform by drawing attention to strategies that use existing laws, which various government agencies could implement to help tackle the climate crisis. They also identified existing laws that could allow for new standards as climatic conditions change.

For example, the US Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act currently allows fisheries management to adjust catch allocations. However, this law also has transformative capacity due to the flexibility of its terms and procedural discretion.

When legal capabilities are used to their maximum advantage, multiple levels of government can respond to environmental change while remaining within a legislative framework.

“First, there is often flexibility in the law itself – that is, the law provides room for new implementation strategies to deal with new realities, such as through productive exercises of federal agency discretion,” said researcher Robin Craig of the University of Utah SJ Quinney School of Law.

“Secondly, much of the existing statutory regime for the environment and natural resources provides the power to open space for socio-ecological systems to better utilize their own adaptive and transformative capacities,” continued Craig. “For example, rather than requiring a particular protected area to remain in an increasingly forced historic state, changes in agency management rules can allow the area to adapt and evolve to changing circumstances. changing conditions while protecting the new productive system that is emerging.”

Managers and stakeholders can use the examples provided by researchers, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, to explore what they can do in their communities to adapt to environmental change.

“The goal is to avoid system collapse – to ensure that we guide adaptation and transformation so that evolved social-ecological systems are productive, support biodiversity and continue to contribute to human well-being, even “These are different systems than what we’ve been using in the past,” Craig said.

“For Americans, I think the most important message is that we don’t have to wait for Congress to act to engage more broadly in adaptation and transformation to deal with the Anthropocene,” he said. she continued. “While the system of federal laws we currently have is not optimal in many cases, it also does not hinder us if agencies and stakeholders are willing to be creative and try new approaches in the framework of the agencies’ existing discretion and flexibility.”

By Olivia Harvey, Personal editor

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