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26 UCLA Journal of Environmental Law and Policy 1 (2007)


Since the signing the Kyoto Protocol, the international community has focused a great deal of attention on measures designed to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Much less attention has been paid to climate change adaption. This is unfortunate because, even if the Kyoto Protocol is fully implemented, climate change will generate substantial costs requiring substantial adaptation efforts, especially in the less developed countries (LDCs) of the world's tropical regions.

This paper considers what those countries should be doing in preparation for the effects of climate change, and what the countries of the developed world, including the United States, can and should do to assist them. Contrary to the opinions of many economists (but consistent with the opinion of Thomas Schelling), this paper argues that the best thing developing countries can do to prepare for climate changes is to develop adaptively efficient market and governmental institutions to increase their per capita income. The wealthier LDCs become between now and the second half of the twenty-first century, the greater their capacity will be to cope with the unavoidable consequences of climate change.

Of course, economic development is more easily prescribed than achieved. Few LDCs will likely be able to improve and diversify their economies without substantial international assistance. The Framework Convention on Climate Change obligates developed countries to provide both specific climate change assistance and more general economic development assistance. However, the history of economic development aid during the last half century has seen at least as many failures as successes. This paper seriously considers the problems of development assistance,and makes some recommendations based on what seems to work best: specifically targeted, tailored, and conditioned aid projects. Such projects may, or may not, be able to improve adaptive efficiency in LDCs. But they should, at least, help offset some of the expected costs of climate change.