Testing the need for law reform to adapt to climate change: dealing with water scarcity in a water-rich country

Andrea Keessen

Chair(s): Esther Stouthamer

Tuesday 30 june 2015

12:00 - 12:20h at Asia (level 0)

Themes: (T) Special session, (ST) Deltas from multiple pressures to integrated solutions

Parallel session: 5C. Special session: Deltas - from multiple pressures to integrated solutions.

Arguably law should change and become adaptive in order to facilitate adaptation to climate change. However, adaptiveness is not the only feature of law. Too much flexibility runs counter to the need for stability, enforceability and legitimacy. Therefore a balance should be struck. Legal experiments could open up the discussion about the need for and the extent of legal adaptation to climate change. This need for experiments motivated our choice to analyze and compare two adaptation measures to deal with water scarcity in a water-rich country like the Netherlands from a resilience perspective. Our aim was to uncover whether the current Dutch legal framework enables adaptation or whether that requires a rule change. We analyzed the applicable legal rules, the legal and policy documents and selected two case studies in an area with structural water scarcity. We interviewed the main stakeholders, which set up adaptation measures. It is clear that the Dutch legal system is not designed to deal with structural water scarcity. Yet the two cases showed that the national rules did not have to change to enable adaptation to a situation of structural water scarcity. Albeit Dutch water resource law does not equally promote all elements of an adaptive approach, it enables adaptation through its polycentric structure and the discretionary room it leaves to regional authorities to create local solutions together with private parties. Keywords: adaptation, climate change, law, governance, water resource management.

More information