The collective global disappointment at the outcome at Copenhagen has highlighted the colossal expectations that have been placed on the UN process to address climate change. While the UNFCCC has proved invaluable in setting the agenda and has made huge progress on tackling climate change it has been and remains dogged by trying to balance the requirements and expectations of the 192 parties to the Convention. As the fraught debates surrounding the future prospect of a binding global climate change agreement rumble on, perhaps too little attention is given to domestic policies being implemented at a national level. It would be unfair to underestimate these, as highlighted by the latest GLOBE International report, ‘Climate Legislation Study’, which identifies existing climate change legislation in 16 countries (15 countries plus the EU). Through its work in China, Sandbag has also experienced first-hand this difference of tone between international and domestic climate change objectives. The national interest is a strong motivator in acting to prevent dangerous climate change, as evident by Chinas extremely progressive 12th Five-Year-Plan.

This report is a wonderful resource that gives a detailed insight into the domestic policies of 16 pivotal climate change countries. As the table below shows, different countries have different priorities:

Globe Report Table

The study reveals that:

  • Legislation is being advanced, to varying degrees, in all of the study countries.
  • Most of the legislative activity has taken place over the last year and a half – contrasting sharply with the difficulties experienced by the international negotiations over the same timeframe
  • This demonstrates that the shape of the debate is changing from one about sharing a global burden – with governments naturally trying to minimize their share – to one of a realisation that acting on climate change is in the national interest
  • It is particularly encouraging that the large developing countries of Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa – who together represent the engine of global economic growth – are developing comprehensive laws to tackle climate change.
  • Current legislation does not yet, cumulatively, add up to what is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change
  • However, this legislation is putting in place the legal and policy frameworks to measure, report, verify and manage carbon

The President of Globe International, Lord Deben, states that “an effective post-2012 climate change agreement will only be possible when countries are already taking the necessary domestic action, firmly rooted in their own national interest. In other words, an international agreement will only reflect the political realities in the major economies, not define them.”

If this is true it is encouraging to see just how much is going on at a national level.