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Report Finds Global Climate Legislation Slowdown Since 2015 Paris Agreement

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Heads of delegations to the talks that led to the Paris agreement. Presidencia de la República Mexicana / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The place of global climate change legislation has "slowed significantly" since the Paris agreement was formulated in 2015, CBS reported Thursday

This slowdown follows decades of legislative growth, and raises potential concerns about signatories' commitments to honor their Paris pledges just as environmental activists hope to convince them to increase those commitments in climate talks taking place this week in Bonn, Germany.


According to a report published Monday by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, and the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science, the number of climate change related laws and policies has risen from 72 in 1997 to 1500 today.

In the years leading up to the Paris agreement, from 2009 and 2015, between 100 and 143 new laws were passed each year. But that number dropped off dramatically to 64 in 2016 and then dipped again by almost half to 36 in 2017.

The report's authors suggested that the drop off might merely mean that the past decades of increased legislation have laid a solid legal groundwork for climate action, requiring fewer new laws to be passed.

However, they also noted that the Paris agreement requires each country to set nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and to increase their emissions lowering efforts over the life of the agreement, in order to keep global temperatures well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

"This will require countries either to introduce new laws and policies, or to revisit, revise and strengthen their existing laws and policies, to keep up with increased ambition. Countries will also have to address issues of monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) in order to comply with the Paris Agreement. Therefore, a sustained low level of legislative developments could be a sign for concern," the report read.

The report also called for stronger links between national laws and international targets. Of the 106 new laws passed since the Paris agreement was signed in 2016, only 28 explicitly mention the agreement or NDCs.

"The ability to import internationally declared targets into actionable national laws and policies, and to translate those targets into action, will have a great impact on the success of the Paris Agreement," the report argued.

As CBS pointed out, the report was published the same day that talks began in Bonn, Germany to continue formalizing the rules of the Paris agreement in advance of the global climate summit this December in Katowice, Poland, where the Paris rulebook will be finalized and agreed to.

If this week's talks, which conclude May 10, are successful from environmental advocates' point of view, then they could very well lead to a surge of national legislation.

At stake are questions of how to transparently monitor and assess what nations do to lower emissions and whether or not they succeed, as well as getting the 193 governments represented at the talks to admit that current commitments will not be enough to keep warming below two degrees Celsius and to up their targets accordingly, CBS reported.

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