What could happen at COP27? The importance of climate change legislation

At a time when global warming is at the forefront of national environmental policies and measures, we are currently helping national governments and parliaments that are moving towards the adoption and/or reform of national legislation in a climate friendly manner. Among developing or emerging countries, the following have adopted or are in the process of adopting ad-hoc climate-related legislation: Belize, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Fiji, Gabon, Guatemala, Kenya, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea and Uganda.

While the Paris Agreement recognises ‘the importance of the engagements of all levels of government and various actors, in accordance with respective national legislations of Parties, in addressing climate change’, it does not require any country to change their domestic legislation. However, it does call for signatories to undertake ambitious efforts on:

  • mitigation and adaptation
  • preparing, communicating and maintaining successive nationally determined contributions
  • formulating and communicating long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies.

Evidence has shown that those actions can be better achieved when national policies and legislation are aligned and consistent, and a coherent and overarching governance structure to coordinate climate change management initiatives at the national level is in place.

GCCA+ Tanzania
©EU GCCA+ Tanzania

In particular, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are moving towards the adoption of a framework climate law. They are doing so mainly to:

  • ensure stability and coordination at the institutional level
  • establish a sound environment to fulfil the Paris Agreement requirements and attract climate finance
  • govern carbon market opportunities.

The main objective of establishing a framework climate law is to ensure countries can contribute to tackling climate change and to promote sustainable development by using their natural assets and resources. By doing so, the aim is to maximise revenues and take advantage of the economic opportunities arising from market-based mechanisms and other financial instruments (where governments can have an appropriate share of the benefits and the private sector is incentivised to support that). Countries must also regulate the sale of carbon credits and address how carbon rights and revenues will be distributed within the country.

In their efforts to reform their legislation, countries need to choose between two options.

1) Adopt and create a new overarching framework law. The pros are more stability and clarity and reforms to the entire system and institutions. The cons are that a lot of time is needed along with strong high level and political support, especially at the level of prime minister; or,

2) Modify and amend existing legislation related to climate change directly and indirectly. The advantage is a quicker and easier process. The disadvantages are less stability in the long term and it is not the best way to attract climate finance.

The main elements for a framework on climate law

Leonardo, Massai, GCCA+ technical expert