Climate Change Adaptation: The Impact of Law on Adaptation in the Private Sector

This resource summarizes a workshop from March 2012 among academics, non-profit and business representatives, and government officials addressing private sector adaptation to climate change that is influenced by law and public policy. The subset of private sector adaptation measures that are motivated, influenced, prevented, or constrained by government are the focus of the discussion.

Professor Michael Vandenburgh presented survey evidence of public concern about climate change and discussed the importance of private market decisions. Economist Andrew Keeler discussed how the timing of government actions, the balance between consistency and flexibility in government policy, and government decisions about compensation for those harmed by climate change can influence private sector actors. John Dorman of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources discussed the state's new IRISK model that provides localized information on climate impacts. The report mentions GCC's Adaptation Clearinghouse as an important nongovernmental contributor to the effort of disseminating private sector information.  

The summary includes a list of principles and outcomes the the group developed consensus around during the discussion.  These include:

  • manage change in a way that contributes to or does not undermine institutional resilience; minimize negative externalities from private sector adaptation actions;
  • facilitate adaptation actions that are efficient, cost-effective, and politically viable;
  • ensure that as it acts to facilitate adaptation it does not undermine mitigation efforts;
  • identify leverage points within the private sector to maximize the reach of its influence;
  • be sensitive to cultural and social values, including the importance of time and place to communities, and strive for equitable outcomes;
  • and facilitate interactions and coordination that capitalize on social forces.  


The balance of the report summarizes four break-out discussions. One focused on insurance law, emphasizing the importance of avoiding perverse incentives due to the subsidization of disaster insurance and other ways to properly align incentives and information dissemination to the needs of a changing climate.  A second discussion group focused on laws concerning the built environment and identified taking account for local circumstances and crafting broad adaptation approaches as two key principles. The third concerned privately owned natural resources and emphasized working through existing legal and regulatory frameworks. The fourth group discussed other privately held resources, including residential and commercial real estate, focusing on the role of zoning and insurance.  

This workshop was sponsored by: the Center for Law, Environment, Adaptation, and Resources (CLEAR), University of North Carolina; Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment, University of California, Los Angeles; Georgetown Climate Center; The George Washington University Law School; Vanderbilt Climate Change Research Network; and the Center for Progressive Reform.

Publication Date: July 2012

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Victor B. Flatt
  • Yee Huang

Related Organizations:

  • University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
  • Center for Progressive Reform
  • University of North Carolina


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Education/training materials
  • Legal Analysis

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