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OPINION: National action is key to accelerating international progress on climate change

The combined actions of individual nations is key in helping international progress on climate change to outpace the increasing level of urgency, so say the Rt Hon. John Gummer, Lord Deben; Lord Michael Jay, Graham Stuart MP; Barry Gardiner MP; Tim Yeo MP; Joan Walley MP; and Adam Matthews

At the recent Doha conference, Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), highlighted the importance of individual government policies in addressing the challenges of climate change.

Since the summit concluded with only modest achievements, consensus has grown that the response to climate change is not up to pace with the urgency for a response. Although the formal international negotiations under the UNFCCC remain vital, the snail’s pace of progress is no longer acceptable. (Observe the difficulty in Doha, for example, of formalising the decision to agree to a second period of the Kyoto Protocol, which was agreed in principle last year in Durban.)

That Figueres highlighted the vital role of national and sub-national government policy to achieving an accelerated response to climate change is telling. Only by implementing such frameworks can the political conditions for a comprehensive global agreement in 2015 be created.

Unlike the international negotiations, domestic climate change legislation is advancing at a rapid pace. This is particularly the case in developing countries and so-called ’emerging’ economies, which will provide the motor of global economic growthIdeally, economic growth is decoupled from energy consumption. This can be achieved through different measures, one of them being energy efficiency or a shift towards less energy intensive sectors, such as services. in coming decades. Many of these nations conclude that it is in their national interest to reduce greenhouse gas emissionsGreenhouse gas emissions cause dangerous anthropogenic climate change. Emissions include CO2, fluoridated gases, methane which are emitted by human activity such as deforestation and burning fossil fuels, and water vapour. and better prepare for the impacts of climate change.

This is a crucial, and under-appreciated, change in the centre of gravity of the climate change debate. And it mirrors a broader crossroad in international relations, with continuing economic malaise in the West being counterpoised with an increasingly rapid shift of power, both politically and economically, to emerging economies.

The 3rd GLOBE Climate Legislation Study has been undertaken with CDKN’s support by the Global Legislators’ Organisation (GLOBE) and the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics. The findings, released this week at a ministerial-level launch of the study at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London, show that 32 of the 33 surveyed countries have progressed or are progressing significant climate and/or energy-related legislation.

For example, after publishing its 12th Five Year Plan in 2011, China has proceeded with more detailed implementation guidelines, including rules for its emissions tradingThe creation of a market designed to facilitate the buying and selling of the rights to emit greenhouse gases. pilots, progress with drafting its national climate change law and publication of an energy white paper. Moreover, at the end of October, sub-national legislation was passed in Shenzhen to tackle climate change, the first such legislation in China.

Similarly, Mexico is proceeding with its General Law on Climate Change, a comprehensive legislative framework to tackle climate change, together with the first REDDIt is expected that support for REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) should achieve cost effective emission reductions, as well as biodiversity and livelihoods benefits.+ readiness legislation aimed at reducing deforestation. And South Africa has proposed a carbon taxalready in reegle but keep for thesaurus integration (no need to translate) in its latest budget. In the developed world, the EU passed a new directive on energy efficiencyUsing less energy/electricity to perform the same function. Programs designed to use electricity more efficiently - doing the same with less., Germany strengthened legislation relating to carbon capture and storageA process consisting of separation of carbon dioxide from industrial and energy-related sources, transport to a storage location, and long-term isolation from the atmosphere. (IPCC) and energy efficiencyUsing less energy/electricity to perform the same function. Programs designed to use electricity more efficiently - doing the same with less., and Japan recently introduced a carbon taxA carbon tax is a levy on the carbon content of fossil fuels. Because virtually all of the carbon in fossil fuels is ultimately emitted as carbon dioxide, a carbon tax is equivalent to an emission tax on each unit of CO2- equivalent emissions. An energy tax - a levy on the energy content of ....

This national action has been triggered by an increased understanding of risks associated with climate change, and the significant co-benefitsThe benefits of policies implemented for various reasons at the same time, acknowledging that most policies designed to address greenhouse gas mitigation have other, often at least equally important, rationales (e.g., related to objectives of development, sustainability, and equity). The term ... of taking action. Those co-benefits include increased resource efficiency, with its associated lower costsCost: The consumption of resources such as labour time, capital, materials, fuels, etc. as the consequence of an action. In economics, all resources are valued at their opportunity cost, which is the value of the most valuable alternative use of the resources. Costs are defi ned in a variety of ... and increased competitiveness; stronger energy securityLowers tensions in domestic energy supply and reduces energy shortages. through diversifying away from the insecure supply and price-volatile fossil fuelsEnergy from fossil sources, such as natural gas and oil. This type of energy contributes to climate change and because of its finite nature it is not a permanent resource.; improved air quality through reduced use of coal-based and electrified transport; and securing the advantage of being an early adopter of the green technologies of tomorrow.

Right now, a significant gap remains between the cumulative level of ambition of national action and that required to limit the global average temperature rise to the agreed UN ceiling of 2°C. However, if the pace of national action is maintained, the gap will close. Moreover, the frameworks now being put in place by individual nations to measure, report and verify emissionsEmissions of greenhouse gases, greenhouse gas precursors, and aerosols associated with human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, land-use changes, livestock, fertilisation, etc. (IPCC) are a prerequisite for an effective international treaty.

Such a comprehensive international deal will only be possible, however, when enough countries commit to taking action on climate change because they recognize it is advantageous for them to do so, rather than out of perceived altruism. In other words, any eventual deal will reflect domestic political conditions rather than define them.

All of this demonstrates that now is the right time for countries to invest more in climate diplomacy and practical international co-operation to help expedite the creation of conditions on the ground that will enable a comprehensive global agreement to be reached in 2015.

Authors: Rt Hon. John Gummer, Lord Deben, president, Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE International); Lord Michael Jay, former head of the UK Diplomatic Service and G8 Sherpa in 2005 and 2006; Graham Stuart MP, vice president GLOBE International; Barry Gardiner MP, vice president, GLOBE International and leader of the opposition’s Special Envoy on Environment & Climate Change; Tim Yeo MP, Conservative chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee; Joan Walley MP, Labour chairman of the Environment AuditAn audit is an independent, objective quality assurance activity designed to add value and improve an organization’s operations. It helps an organization accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to assess and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control ... Select Committee; and Adam Matthews, secretary general, GLOBE International

For more information on the 3rd GLOBE Climate Legislation Study go to For information on how CDKN has supported the GLOBE Climate Legislation Initiative please visit GLOBE Climate Legislators Initiative – phase 1.


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