UN’s Figueres Says Self-Interest Must Drive Climate Laws

Climate laws should be governed by national self-interest rather than a desire to save the planet, the United Nations diplomat guiding treaty negotiations said.

Domestic action is needed to spur on global talks that are progressing “too slowly,” UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said today in a speech to lawmakers from more than 30 nations in London. Legislators should mix “carrots and sticks” to incentivize carbon reductions and punish polluters, she said.

“Nothing is going to be agreed internationally until enough is legislated for domestically,” Figueres said. “We’re not doing it from an altruistic point of view, to save the planet. We will save the planet also, but climate legislation at the domestic level must be absolutely grounded in national reality, and it must be for the purpose of national benefit.”

Figueres is trying to guide governments of more than 190 nations toward a legally binding deal to cut greenhouse gases by 2015 that will enter force in 2020. That effort requires balancing the interests of countries from small island nations at risk from rising seas to Middle Eastern oil producers whose economies depend on fossil fuels, as well as closing gaps between the two biggest emitters: the U.S. and China.

Figueres was speaking at a meeting of Globe International, an alliance of lawmakers from 70 nations who gather to share experiences and learnings from passing environmental legislation. Globe today issued a study of energy and climate laws in 33 economies accounting for 85 percent of global emissions that showed 18 made “significant” progress in 2012 while only one, Canada, regressed.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.