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Enabling the Contextualization of Legal Rules in Responsive Strategies to Climate Change

Marleen van Rijswick
Willem Salet


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The paradigm of adaptive governance is paramount in policy discourses on the mitigation and adaptation strategies of climate change. Adaptability, resilience, and cooperative approaches are promoted as the appropriate vehicles to meet the contemporary conditions of uncertainty and complexity. We claim that the legitimacy and effectiveness of these responsive strategies might be augmented via the use of legal perspectives. Rather than the instrumental use of command and control type of regulation, the legal perspectives should focus on establishing principal norms that enable the search for different solutions in different contexts. From these assumptions, the concept of legal obligation is explored as embodying the meaning of legality, and at the same time conditioning and committing the probing of different ways of purposeful action in different local circumstances. We explore the innovative potential of legal norms and demonstrate how responsive strategies to climate change can be guided by the contextualization of legal norms.

Key words

adaptive governance, climate change, contextualization of legal norms, planning and law, resilience

Copyright © 2012 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087