Global study finds "impressive" wave of climate legislation

Carey L. Biron

WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Wednesday March 5, 2014, IPS – National governments across the globe have taken surprisingly robust action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, putting in place policies that researchers say collectively offer a strong foundation for ongoing international climate negotiations.Developing countries, particularly China and Mexico, led much of this progress over the past year, according to the first comprehensive review of country-by-country climate-related legislation, released at the U.S. Senate on Thursday. Overall the report finds that 66 countries, accounting for almost 90 percent of global emissions, have nearly 500 national climate laws on their books.

The findings “inject positive momentum to the U.N. climate change negotiations. The study shows that countries across the world – from Africa to the Americas and from Asia to Europe – are legislating to tackle climate change and strengthen resilience to its impacts,” Terry Townshend, a co-author of the new report and deputy secretary-general for policy development with the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE), told IPS.

“This legislative activity is putting in place the national mechanisms and institutional structures to measure, report and manage greenhouse gas emissions, which is a fundamental pre-requisite to an effective international agreement.”

Townshend calls the findings “impressive”. But he hastens to note that the laws that have been passed are not enough to meet the overarching goal agreed upon by the international community: to keep the rise in global average temperature to within two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“So much more needs to be done, and governments and international institutions must prioritise the support of national legislation between now and 2015,” Townshend says. “No international agreement would be effective, or credible, without commensurate legislation at the national level.”

The 700-page report was jointly produced by GLOBE International, the world’s largest organisation of sitting legislators, and the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics (LSE). Although the study is the fourth in a series, the new edition covers far more ground, having doubled the number of countries studied in the previous version.

Of the 66 countries reviewed, 64 have put in place “significant” legislation climate or energy legislation, or are in the process of doing so. In addition, 61 have laws to promote clean energy sources within their borders, while 54 have mandated strengthened efficiency standards.

“More countries than ever before are passing credible and significant national climate change laws,” John Gummer, GLOBE’s president, said Thursday at the U.S. Senate.

“This is changing the dynamics of the international response to climate change and poses a serious question to the international community about how we can recognise credible commitments made by governments within their national legislature. It is by implementing national legislation and regulations that the political conditions for a global agreement in 2015 will be created.”

Final negotiations for a new international agreement on collective action on climate change are currently slated to take place in Paris in 2015, to come into effect after 2020. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)