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Developing world races ahead on climate laws - report

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 27 Feb 2014 09:22 GMT
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An ethnic minority delegate wearing traditional costume walks towards the Great Hall of the People, ahead of the opening ceremony of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), in Beijing, Mar. 3, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Emerging economies, including China and Mexico, accounted for much of the progress in 2013 on national legislation and regulation to tackle climate change, according to a new report tracking 66 countries.

Legislation is bringing improved energy security and resource efficiency, as well as cleaner, lower-carbon economic growth around the world, according to the study which covers countries responsible for 88 percent of global carbon emissions.

Co-authored by the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE) and the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics, it finds that of the 66 countries, 61 have passed laws to promote clean energy sources, 54 have legislated to increase energy efficiency, and 52 have developed legislation or policies to improve their resilience to climate change impacts.

"Legislation is progressing at a rapid rate, reflecting the fact that addressing climate change is being seen as firmly in the national interest," GLOBE International president John Gummer, also a member of Britain's House of Lords and chair of its Climate Change Committee, wrote in a foreword.

The national legislative response is not yet strong enough to enable the world to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, as governments are aiming to do, but it can provide a strong foundation for a new global climate change deal due to be agreed in 2015, Gummer said.

 "Domestic legislation is establishing the institutional frameworks and policies to measure, report, verify and manage emissions," he added. "This legislation is a fundamental prerequisite to an effective international deal."

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said "the clean revolution" the world needs is being carried forward by national parliaments and administrations.

"Domestic legislation opens the political space for international agreements and facilitates overall ambition," she said in a statement. 

TOP MARKS FOR SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA, LATAM

The report highlighted "a longer-term trend that has seen the momentum in climate change legislation shifting from industrialised countries to developing countries and emerging markets".

Significant positive changes have occurred in two regions in particular. In sub-Saharan Africa, national strategies and plans are being formed as the basis for future legislation, and in Latin America, such plans are beginning to transform into concrete legislation.

Overall, the study - the fourth of its kind - reported substantive progress last year in eight countries, which passed flagship laws, and positive advances in a further 19.

On the downside, it pointed to reversals in Australia and Japan. The new Australian government is repealing the country's carbon tax and has also proposed revoking aspects of its Clean Energy Act. Japan abandoned its emissions reduction target late last year after the 2011 Fukushima crisis cut its reliance on nuclear energy. 

REGIONAL OVERVIEW

Here are some key points and examples from developing countries and regions flagged in the study, which covers October 2012 through to the end of 2013:

- Sub-Saharan Africa saw major developments in 2013, with progress in almost all the countries studied, especially on the approval of national climate change plans and strategies.

In  Ethiopia, the Environmental Protection Agency was upgraded to the status of a ministry. Kenya adopted a 2013-2017 Climate Change Action Plan, tasked with implementing its 2010 National Climate Change Response Strategy. In late 2012, Nigeria adopted a National Climate Change Policy and Response Strategy, which provides a framework for dealing with climate-related challenges, such as flooding and sea-level rise.

- In the Middle East and North Africa, there was limited progress. Exceptions include Jordan, which passed its National Climate Change Policy in May 2013.

- In Latin America, Mexico followed up on its 2012 General Law on Climate Change with the creation of the Climate Change National System and Inter-secretarial Committee on Climate Change. It also adopted a National Climate Change Strategy. In October 2012, Bolivia passed "The Law of Mother Earth", a sweeping overhaul of the national management of natural resources, climate and ecosystems.

El Salvador also adopted a National Climate Change Strategy aimed at reducing the economic and social impacts of climate change. Guatemala passed a framework law to kickstart and coordinate national climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. And in Costa Rica, a Framework Law on Climate Change was formally introduced to Congress in September 2013, and is expected to pass in 2014.

- In Asia, China continued to work on its national climate change law, a draft of which is expected to be completed and consulted on in 2014. It also developed and published a National Plan for Addressing Climate Change (2013-2020).

Indonesia has been active on forests, with a decree establishing a Managing Agency for REDD+, which will develop a national strategy for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

The Federated States of Micronesia passed two major pieces of legislation in late 2013. And Thailand’s government is working on the National Master Plan on Climate Change 2013-2050.

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