The Climate Resilient Development Project
Land Use Law Center
Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University

 “Sustainable Development for All”
The IPCC Calls for Climate Resilient Development to Adapt to and Mitigate Climate Change

John R. Nolon, Distinguished Professor Emeritus
March 17, 2022

Climate Resilient Development is a new frontier in the global response to climate change. Consider the IPCC’s 3675 page report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, released on February 27. Working Group II, which produced the study, also released a 37 page Summary for Policymakers. It defines Climate Resilient Development as a strategy that “integrates adaptation measures and their enabling conditions with mitigation to advance sustainable development for all.” Id. at 30. This emphasis calls for policymakers to approach climate change management not as adaptation or mitigation but rather to evaluate them together, balanced depending on the local circumstances. “Embedding effective and equitable adaptation and mitigation in development planning can reduce vulnerability, conserve and restore ecosystems, and enable climate resilient development.”


“Development planning” includes urban and land use planning and the legal authority that state and local governments have to regulate and shape land development in the public interest. Localism is embraced by this IPCC assessment: “Evidence shows that climate resilient development and processes link scientific, Indigenous, local, practitioner and other forms of knowledge and are more effective because they are locally appropriate and lead to more legitimate, relevant and effective actions.” Id. at 32 The report adds, “the global trend of urbanization also offers a critical opportunity in the near-term, to advance climate resilient development.” Id. at 33.


Sustainable development is to be achieved through the integration of adaptation and mitigation by the means of climate resilient development. In response, the Land Use Law Center will redouble its search for effective implementation policies and strategies so that policymakers have models for implementing the IPPC’s approach. Our students are already reviewing our previous work on mitigation  and low carbon land use strategies to identify their adaptive effects and add them to our outreach and database initiatives.


We previously found, for example, state and local efforts to preserve and expand the vegetated environment to mitigate climate change. (Nationally, 15-20% of CO2 is captured through biological sequestration). At the same time, preserving and enhancing the vegetated environment adapts to climate change given the cooling, flood control, and water conservation benefits of preserving trees, shrubs, and grasses. Adaptation measures, however, must be designed to avoid unintended adverse impacts. More trees and green infrastructure can cause property damage in high winds, increase mosquito infestation in preserved wetlands, and produce vegetation that may not survive in rapidly warming areas.  Other examples of maladaptation include hard defenses against flooding and fire suppression in naturally fire-adapted ecosystems. Working Group II emphasizes the importance of avoiding maladaptation. IPCC Report at 28. It points out that implementation measures can “effectively reduce impacts to people and assets in the short-term but can also result in lock-ins and increase exposure to climate risks in the long-term unless they are integrated into a long term adaptive plan. Adaptation integrated with development reduces lock-ins and creates opportunities.”

The difficulty of implementing proper adaptation measures is great. They must balance adaptation with mitigation, be feasible in the long-term, focus on local conditions, and engage local stakeholders inclusively, among other challenges. This will require multi-sector support, involve considerable financing, and be just, that is account for the often disproportionate harm that climate change inflicts upon vulnerable populations.

The last paragraph of the report provides the motivation for overcoming these barriers: “Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”

As an important participant in the needed multi-sector response, law schools can help, particularly in identifying and explaining ground level implementation measures for key stakeholders to adapt to their local circumstances. The dissemination of effective implementation models can accelerate the process of change. This is the goal of the Climate Resilient Development Project of the Land Use Law Center.

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The previous blogs in the series are listed here:

  1. Reframing Sustainability: Introducing the Land Use, Human Health, and Equity Project
  2. Planning for Public Health: A New Beginning for Land Use Law
  3. The Role of Density in Combatting Climate Change and COVID-19
  4. Novel Coronavirus Claims Implicate Age-Old Property Rights Questions
  5. State & Local COVID-related Emergency Powers: Individual Rights
  6. COVID-Related Land Use Regulations and Judicial Deference
  7. Mediation of Eviction Disputes May Hold the Key to the Survival of Small Businesses
  8. Using Zoning to Help Eliminate Food Deserts: A Few Steps Forward
  9. Urban Heat Islands and Equity
  10. Urban Heat Island and Equity: What Can Local Governments Do?
  11. The Recovery Lease: Preventing Evictions of Commercial Tenants During the Pandemic
  12. The Role of Hazard Mitigation Planning in Promoting Public Health and Resilience
  13. Hazard Mitigation Planning: A Case Study
  14. Complete Streets: Protecting Public Health
  15. Zoning and Lease Mediation as a Way to Retain Critical Small Businesses
  16. Segregation by Law and the Racial Inequity Pandemic
  17. Combating Food Swamps to Improve Equity and Public Health
  18. The Pandemic Plan for Healthy Buildings
  19. Remediating Distressed Properties to Improve Public Health
  20. Housing, a Crucial Determinant of Health
  21. ADU Introduction
  22. NIMBY Restrictions to Poison the Prospects of Accessory Dwelling Units to Address Housing Insecurity
  23. Zoning to Fill the Missing Middle Housing Gap
  24. Old Tools to Fight Housing Insecurity: Adaptive Reuse and Infill Development
  25. Racial Impact Analyses
  26. A New Era of Equity-Based Comprehensive Planning…Finally
  27. Equity-Based Comprehensive Plans: Land Use Policies to Correct Past Disparities
  28. Reversing the Legacy of Redlining: Reducing Exposure to Toxins and Pollutants Through Land Use Law Reform
  29. Addressing the Four Pandemics – A Case Study
  30. Health Impact Assessments: A New Tool for Analyzing Land Use Plans, Zone Changes, and Development Projects
  31. Putting the “e” in TOD
  32. The Four Pandemics Explained and Addressed by Land Use Law and Policy
  33. Gentrification: Remedies and Consequences
  34. What is Climate Gentrification and Why is it Different?
  35. Using Supportive Housing to Address Homelessness
  36. Low Carbon and Resilient Land Use: Part 1
  37. Low Carbon and Resilient Land Use: Part 2
  38. Low Carbon and Resilient Land Use: Part 3
  39. Gaining Ground on Four Catastrophes: How to Find and Use Strategies to Protect Human Health


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