Legal and Policy Tools to Adapt Biodiversity Management to Climate Change

Created: 6/05/2013 -


This resource manual is a call to use laws and regulations to adapt biodiversity management to the expected effects of climate change. Climate change will likely impact species and ecosystems that are already facing severe threats from invasive species, habitat degradation and fragmentation, overexploitation, and pollution. As climate change becomes more severe, gaps and weaknesses in existing legal frameworks and government policies are starting to appear. Current laws frequently assume or emphasize preservation of a status quo that may no longer be possible to maintain; they may impose burdensome requirements that do not advance rational policy objectives. Meanwhile, first efforts at adaptive management have tended to overlook the role of the law as a powerful adaptation tool.

This resource manual will help policymakers and stakeholders determine how their laws can be changed to meet these new policy objectives. Because theimpacts of climate change are highly localized and uncertain, the manual is designed to offer a range of options for managing natural resources that can beadapted to a variety of contexts and capacities. Climate change presents an opportunity. We are at a moment when “longstanding and long-ossified legal and institutional arrangements over natural resources are destabilized, opening the door to new, creative, problem-solving approaches.” 

Using the principles of adaptive, ecosystem-based management, the resource manual shows how legal frameworks, regulatory programs, and management plans can provide a more resilient approach for long-term, sustainable resource governance in the face of climate change. The manual focuses on in situ management types (e.g., forests, fisheries, protected areas), the sustainable use of natural resources, and conservation of biodiversity. It does not cover the agricultural sector and does not explicitly focus on genetic resources. However, many of the principles and dynamic models of governance presented in the resource manual are relevant outside the context of biodiversity and natural resources management, and can be applied in many other areas of law and policy.

ELI staff was guided by an Advisory Committee of environmental practitioners in six countries: Peru, Dominican Republic, Uganda, Madagascar, Bhutan, andVietnam. These countries have distinct ecological contexts, legal systems, and political, social, and economic situations. Examples and illustrations have been drawn from these and other developing countries to demonstrate the feasibility of innovative legal programs for adaptation in countries with limited governance capacity. This resource manual was also reviewed by many internationally respected experts on biodiversity and climate change issues. ELI is, of course, responsible for the final content, analysis, and recommendations.

Published On


Sector Addressed
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Create new refugia / Increase size and amount of protected areas
Capacity Building
Design or reform institutions
Coordinate planning and management
Conduct scenario planning exercise
Monitor climate change impacts and adaptation efficacy
Governance and Policy
Create new or enhance existing policies or regulations
Develop / implement adaptive management strategies

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