Climate Chnage

Climate change is a global concern. How effective are the legal mechanisms for tackling climate change?

There is no need for debate on whether climate change is a global concern. Climate change impacts are already affecting humans and the planet. And the science shows it will get far, far worse with its projected continuation. The question is: What legal mechanisms have been implemented by all forms of government to tackle climate change, and how effectively are they being pursued?

Climate change continues to threaten our environment and presents enormous challenges for conventional modes of socioeconomic governance. Against this backdrop, the last few years have seen the consolidation of a body of legal rules and principles based around the fundamental problems of mitigating and adapting to climate change. The new climate change laws extend from international to local levels of governance, and encompass the activities of a range of players including governments, businesses and non-government environmental groups. Progress in climate change law has been made: we have international agreements; more resources for scientific research, leading to stronger evidence; some policy advances; a change in industry rhetoric; and a certain increase in public awareness. But all this falls far short of what is needed. At the heart of the problem is the production and use of fossil fuels. Many developed countries have now accepted legally binding emissions targets in the Kyoto Protocol, but these are widely recognised to be seriously inadequate and as a result the US – one of the main culprits in the increase of climate change and the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gas – has opted out.

In 1998, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meterological Organisation (WMO) created the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to asses the scientific knowledge on global warming. Its first report in 1990 led way to an international convention on...