Are existing laws enough to cope with accelerating environmental change? | 6/24/2019 | Staff
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Do you think that major statutory reform is necessary address global environmental challenges? Think again.

Newly published research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by a group of environmental law scholars explores the untapped capacity of existing environmental and natural resources management statutes to address accelerating environmental change in the absence of major legislative reform.

Research - Untapped - Capacity - Resilience - Law

The research, titled "Untapped capacity for resilience in environmental law," comes at a time whenthe world's environment is changing rapidly in ways that directly impact human well-being, from migrating species to changing precipitation patterns, flooding, and water supplies. As a result, adaptation—both of ecosystems and social-ecological systems—is inevitable, according to researchers.

In many cases, systems will also have to transform into new configurations. In both the U.S. and European Union, policymakers have grappled on how best to handle the challenges. Many believe that new legislative regimes will be necessary. Particularly in the U.S., however, Congress is unlikely to engage in a major and helpful overhaul of the federal environmental and natural resources statutes to help with the necessary adaptation and transformation efforts, even though some state and local governments are increasingly responding through legal amendments.

Research - PNAS - Offers - Solutions - Lack

The new research in PNAS offers solutions to a lack of legislative reform by focusing on strategies the various government agencies that implement the statutes can take to tap into existing flexibility. Scholars identify existing laws that have provisions that allow for creating new standards as conditions change. One example in the U.S. is the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, which allows fishery management to adjust catch allowances. The scholars note that the law also has a transformative capacity stemming from the flexibility of the terms of the law itself and procedural discretion. When legal capacities are leveraged, multiple levels of government can respond to complex environmental changes...
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