Fair adaptation to climate change

Jouni Paavola, W. Neil Adger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

402 Citations (Scopus)


This article identifies social justice dilemmas associated with the necessity to adapt to climate change, examines how they are currently addressed by the climate change regime, and proposes solutions to overcome prevailing gaps and ambiguities. We argue that the key justice dilemmas of adaptation include responsibility for climate change impacts, the level and burden sharing of assistance to vulnerable countries for adaptation, distribution of assistance between recipient countries and adaptation measures, and fair participation in planning and making decisions on adaptation. We demonstrate how the climate change regime largely omits responsibility but makes a general commitment to assistance. However, the regime has so far failed to operationalise assistance and has made only minor progress towards eliminating obstacles for fair participation. We propose the adoption of four principles for fair adaptation in the climate change regime. These include avoiding dangerous climate change, forward-looking responsibility, putting the most vulnerable first and equal participation of all. We argue that a safe maximum standard of 400–500 ppm of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere and a carbon tax of $20–50 per carbon equivalent ton could provide the initial instruments for operationalising the principles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-609
Number of pages16
JournalEcological Economics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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