Nations have passed almost 500 laws to tackle climate change, with emerging economies led by Mexico and China making the most progress last year, a study by Globe International found.
A total of 62 out of the 66 countries examined have passed or are working on “significant” climate or energy-related laws, Globe said today in a report. Venezuela, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Canada lack “flagship” legislation, according to the group, an alliance of global lawmakers.
Progress in passing laws is important in the battle to cut polluting greenhouse gases because the nations studied cover 88 percent of world emissions. Domestic action is crucial to help secure an international agreement to fight global warming because it helps build trust between countries, Caroline Spelman, a U.K. lawmaker, said in an interview.
“The climate-change negotiations have been mired down because of the difficulties of getting 194 countries to agree,” said Spelman, a former U.K. environment secretary. “You’ve got to have sufficient enough countries passing national legislation in order to get some traction” for a global deal.
Spelman took part in United Nations climate talks in South Africa in 2011, when participating countries agreed to devise a new global deal by 2015 that would take effect from 2020 and involve action by all nations.
For the second year running, Globe flagged China and Mexico among nations making the most progress domestically. China published a plan to help it adapt to the effects of climate change, while continuing to draft a climate law, Globe said. Mexico adopted a national climate-change strategy.
China remains the world’s biggest emitter and its greenhouse-gas output is rising. The country is yet to say when its emissions will peak.
The 1997 Kyoto treaty puts limits only on developed nations. The U.S., the biggest developed emitter, never ratified the agreement, while Japan, Canada and Russia all dropped out, leaving it covering less than 15 percent of global emissions.
The new accord won’t necessarily be a treaty, with nations agreeing in Durban to devise “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force.” That leaves open a deal based on national laws. U.S. envoy Todd Stern said last year that rigid international rules could block an accord.
“It’s got to be more flexible than a prescriptive treaty to get people signed up,” Spelman said. “There’s some pragmatism coming in, not dictating to people precisely how they should approach tackling climate change.”
Globe said China and Mexico were among 19 countries to have made “positive advances” last year. Eight other nations passed “flagship” legislation: Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kenya, Micronesia, Mozambique, Nigeria and Switzerland.
Globe signaled that in Japan and Australia, the political environment for carbon laws had become “more difficult.” Australia’s new government has pledged to repeal the previous administration’s carbon-pricing mechanism, while Japan last year reduced its international emission-reduction pledge for 2020.
Sixty-one of the nations have laws to promote domestic clean energy, 54 have legislated to boost energy efficiency, and 52 have developed laws to improve their resilience to the effects of climate change, according to the study. Twenty developed nations have passed 194 climate laws from carbon pricing to emissions standards for cars and insulation measures. Forty-six poorer countries have 293 laws in place.
“I challenge legislators to take advantage of the information in this study, create strong national policy that moves us to a low-carbon world and bring strong contributions to the international process,” UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, who’s leading global talks, said in the report. “In doing so, legislators can rise to meet our greatest challenge: climate change.”