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Rapid Advance of National Climate Change Laws Gives Hope for 2015 Agreement

 flags of countries in the report who have passed climate change legislationAs new research reveals there are now almost 500 climate change laws passed by 66 of the world's countries, a major new initiative is being launched today in Washington DC, hosted by US Senator Edward Markey, to help national legislators to develop, advance and implement climate change laws.

The 66 countries are responsible for 88% of global GHG emissions, according to the most comprehensive analysis to date of the reach and depth of national climate legislation.

The news turns on its head the conventional wisdom on climate change - that progress has waned. As the study (conducted by GLOBE International and the Grantham Institute at the London School of Economics) asserts, the key is now to secure an ambitious, comprehensive global deal by the 2015 deadline that has national legislation at its heart.

This will be facilitated by major new initiative being launched at a summit today in Washington DC, hosted by US Senator Edward Markey. Its purpose is to will help national legislators to develop, advance and implement climate change laws. [Watch this video.]

Called The Partnership for Climate Legislation, and supported by the World Bank Group and United Nations, it will help national legislators to develop, advance and implement climate change laws, working across the 66 nations covered by the Study, by sharing best legislative practice, providing detailed policy, analytical and legal capacity to cross-party groups of legislators as they develop their own laws.

The GLOBE Climate Legislation Study findings show that:

  • almost 500 national climate laws have been passed in the 66 countries covered by the Study;
  • 64 of them have progressed or are progressing significant climate and/or energy-related legislation;
  • much of the substantive progress on legislative activity on climate change in 2013 took place in emerging economies where most growth in emissions is occurring, including China and Mexico;
  • although the legislative approach often differs, national legislation is achieving similar results: improved energy security, greater resource-efficiency and cleaner, lower carbon economic growth;
  • although current national legislation does not yet add up to what needs to be done to avoid dangerous climate change, it is putting in place the mechanisms to measure, report and verify emissions, a pre-requisite for a credible global climate treaty;
  • there is an urgent need for those countries that have not yet passed climate legislation to do so.

Countries in the report who have passed climate change legislationCountries put in place legislation for a variety of different reasons: sometimes they are directly inspired by climate change, sometimes by the need to improve energy efficiency, or energy security, or competitiveness. Whatever the reason the result is the same: a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The report says that legislation is progressing at a rapid rate, reflecting the fact that addressing climate change is being seen as firmly in the national interest. National achievements are often supported and in some cases the past by the legislation produced by subsidiary states and provinces. Major examples can be found in Canada and the United States.

But the report warns that at the same time we must recognise that progress can be undone, witness the new attitude in Australia that could lead to a reversal of important legislative steps. Also, the laws enacted so far are not yet sufficient to limit emissions to a level that would cause only a 2°C rise in global average temperatures, which is the agreed goal of the international community.

US Senator Edward Markey, said: "Climate action is happening in legislatures around the globe because climate change is harming countries and their people around the globe.  We need an international movement to pass climate legislation, and nowhere is that movement needed more than here in the United States.

"The GLOBE study show legislators around the world are taking actives steps to develop significant national legislation and I urge colleagues here in the United States to acknowledge the movement and take action."

Also present at the launch of the Partnership, the President of the Global Legislators Organisation, Rt Hon John Gummer, Lord Deben, said: "The message from the 4th GLOBE Climate Legislation Study is clear - more countries than ever before are passing credible and significant national climate change laws.

"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."
He called on countries to embrace the result of the studies in their work between now and the climate change summit in Paris in 2015 to develop the legislation necessary for the world to agree on limiting dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions.

"We must see more countries develop their own national climate change laws so that when governments sit down in 2015 they will do so in very different political conditions to when they did in Copenhagen.  The Partnership for Climate Legislation will support legislators across party political lines to advance climate change-related legislation," he said.

Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres underscored the point: "Domestic legislation is critical because it is the linchpin between action on the ground and the international agreement. At the national level, it is clear that when countries enact clean energy policies, investment follows. At the international level, it is equally clear that domestic legislation opens the political space for international agreements and facilitates overall ambition."

The President of the Mexican Congress, Hon. Ricardo Anaya Cortes said: "With the support of GLOBE, Mexico has passed ambitious climate legislation. We are here today in the US Senate to share our experience, to build a global coalition of parliamentarians against the damaging effects of climate change and to challenge inaction."
UK Foreign Secretary Rt. Hon William Hague said: "A global and legally binding deal on emissions reductions in the UNFCC in 2015 is imperative.  As we work towards that agreement, it is clear that domestic legislation has a key role to play in building consensus and cementing ambition, which is why GLOBE's work is so important. 

What are different countries doing?

In 2013 there was substantive legislative progress in 8 countries and positive advances in a further 19 countries.

  • Americas: Bolivia passed its Framework Law on Mother Earth and Integral Development to Live Well; El Salvador adopted its National Climate Change Strategy; In Ecuador, Decree 1815 established the Intersectoral National Strategy for Climate Change; and in Costa Rica a draft General Law on Climate Change has been introduced and is expected to pass in 2014.
  • Asia-Pacific: China published its National Adaptation Plan and made progress in drafting its national climate change law; Indonesia extended its forest moratorium; Kazakhstan introduced a pilot emissions trading scheme; Micronesia passed its Climate Change Act in late 2013
  • Europe: Poland adopted its National Strategy for Adaptation and Switzerland overhauled its CO2 Act to increase ambition
  • Middle East and North Africa: Jordan passed its National Climate Change Policy; and the United Arab Emirates launched a mandatory Energy Efficiency Standardization and Labelling Scheme.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa: Kenya adopted 2013-2017 Climate Change Action Plan; Mozambique adopted 2013-2025 National Strategy for Climate Change;Tanzania passed its National Strategy on REDD+; Nigeria's Legislative Council approved the adoption of a National Climate Change Policy and Response Strategy

However, two countries began processes to reverse legislation:

  • Following an election, the new Australian government has proposed to repeal aspects of the Clean Energy Act in 2014.
  • Japan announced a lowering of its ambition on climate change in response to its reduced reliance on nuclear energy after the tsunami and resulting accident at Fukushima.

What will the GLOBE Partnership for Climate Legislation do? 

The Partnership will support national legislators and parliaments in 66 countries to pass, amend as well as oversee the implementation of legislation on climate change, natural capital accounting and forests/REDD+. 

Most countries covered by the Partnership are developing countries. Legislators from many of these countries lack sufficient resources, limiting their capacity to develop and pass quality legislation and exercise oversight.

Climate-related legislation and policies (including mitigation, adaptation and forests/REDD), once implemented, carry the potential to bring additional benefits including disaster risk reduction and resilience, new sources of income/livelihoods, sustainable energy access and positive effects on public health.

Recognising that just passing laws is not sufficient in itself, the Partnership will support legislators to ensure they can effectively oversee the implementation of the law, including ensuring national budgets are consistent with climate goals, as well as assessing the impact of climate-related laws on the national economy and key sectors of society.

GLOBE was established in 1989 by cross party legislators from the EU, Japan, Russia and the USA.  Today GLOBE International is the world's largest organisation of legislators dedicated to advancing laws on climate change, forests/REDD+ and natural capital accounting.

Legislators from 86 countries have participated in GLOBE's dedicated policy initiatives and legislators from 40 countries work through formal national and regional chapters of the organization.

With headquarters in Great Britain, offices in 8 countries and over 25 locally-recruited policy advisors across a global network, GLOBE is uniquely placed to support national legislators to develop and implement laws.