Developments in national climate change mitigation legislation and strategy

clim-policy coverNavroz K. Dubasha, Markus Hagemann, Niklas Höhne & Prabhat Upadhyaya
October 2013

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The results are presented from a survey of national legislation and strategies to mitigate climate change covering almost all United Nations member states between 2007 and 2012. This data set is distinguished from the existing literature in its breadth of coverage, its focus on national policies (rather than international pledges), and on the use of objective metrics rather than normative criteria. The focus of the data is limited to national climate legislation and strategies and does not cover subnational or sectoral measures. Climate legislation and strategies are important because they can: enhance incentives for climate mitigation; provide mechanisms for mainstreaming; and provide a focal point for actors. Three broad findings emerge. First, there has been a substantial increase in climate legislation and strategies between 2007 and 2012: 67% of global GHG emissions are now under national climate legislation or strategy compared to 45% in 2007. Second, there are substantial regional effects to the patterns, with most increases in non-Annex I countries, particularly in Asia and Latin America. Third, many more countries have adopted climate strategies than have adopted climate legislation between 2007 and 2012. The article concludes with recommendations for future research.

Policy relevance: The increase in climate legislation and strategy is significant. This spread suggests that, at the national level, there is some movement in reshaping climate governance despite the relatively slow pace of global negotiations, although the exact implications of this spread require further research on stringency of actions and their implementation. Asia and Latin America represent the biggest improvements, while OECD countries, which start from a high base, remain relatively stagnant. Implications of regional patterns are further refined by an analysis by emissions, which shows that some areas of low levels of legislation and strategy are also areas of relatively low emissions. A broad trend toward an emphasis on strategies rather than legislation, with the significant exception of China, calls for enhanced research into the practical impact of national non-binding climate strategies versus binding legislation on countries’ actual emissions over time.