Traditional Knowledge and Climate Change: A New Legal Frontier?

BENELEX Working Paper N. 13

19 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2017 Last revised: 28 Jul 2020

See all articles by Annalisa Savaresi

Annalisa Savaresi

University Stirling, School of Law

Date Written: August 21, 2017


The Paris Agreement is the first climate treaty to include a reference to traditional knowledge, opening up a new legal frontier to address this complex subject in international law. Traditional knowledge has already been the subject of considerable regulatory developments in international environmental and human rights instruments. This paper reflects on how these bodies of law treat traditional knowledge, with the objective of understanding what are the gaps that could and should be addressed in the context of the climate regime. The paper is divided into four parts. The introduction outlines the paper’s structure and methodology. Section two provides a definition of traditional knowledge and identifies the international law questions it raises. Section three analyses existing international obligations on traditional knowledge in environmental and human rights law. Section four considers the interplay between these bodies of international law and the climate regime. The conclusion offers some recommendations on the treatment of traditional knowledge in the climate regime.

Keywords: traditional knowledge; climate change law; Paris Agreement; international environmental law; human rights

JEL Classification: K32

Suggested Citation

Savaresi, Annalisa, Traditional Knowledge and Climate Change: A New Legal Frontier? (August 21, 2017). BENELEX Working Paper N. 13, Available at SSRN:

Annalisa Savaresi (Contact Author)

University Stirling, School of Law ( email )

B12A Pathfoot Building
Stirling, Scotland FK9 4LA
United Kingdom


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