New law and climate change toolkit unveiled at COP23

A new online resource that supports climate change law-making is to be unveiled at COP23 in Bonn this week.

The Law and Climate Change Toolkit is aimed at government policy makers responsible for developing laws that help implement the Paris Agreement. Three organizations have collaborated on the project, namely the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Office of Civil and Criminal Justice Reform, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and UN Environment.

Steven Malby, who heads up the Office of Civil and Criminal Justice Reform at the Commonwealth, said it will provide countries with a comprehensive source of knowledge on climate legislation.

“It is a much-needed resource for countries to review their national laws and undertake reform in support of their climate policy commitments under the Paris Agreement,” Mr Malby said.

The Paris Agreement requires all of its 145 parties to put forward their best efforts in climate action through nationally determined contributions (NDCs) based around emissions. NDCs will be deciding factors as to whether the world achieves the goals agreed in Paris: to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C, to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C, and to achieve net zero emissions in the second half of this century.

Momentum for the toolkit started with the 2015 Commonwealth leaders’ statement on climate action, which underlined the importance of ‘practical and swift action’ to reinforce the outcomes of the Paris climate conference.

Then at their meeting in October last year, senior officials of Commonwealth law ministries supported the production of a toolkit of national laws and good practice. In December 2016, the Commonwealth Secretariat hosted a workshop with a wide range of international organisations and partners to examine how a toolkit could be developed.

This year, the Secretariat has collaborated closely with UNFCCC and UN Environment to develop a pilot version of the toolkit. Four Commonwealth countries, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Jamaica, and Vanuatu, participated in a consultation process.

The pilot version will consist of an online database of laws in two areas, namely overarching climate change laws and energy laws. The provisions of these laws are classified and tagged at article level, which means that the toolkit enables the user to search very precisely for specific legal approaches to climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The toolkit contains a sequence of review questions that support policy makers in identifying possible gaps in their national laws. Where possible gaps are identified, the toolkit suggests legislative options from other countries that could help.

Relevant contextual country information is also contained in the toolkit in order to support tailoring of legislative options to individual country needs. 

Looking beyond the COP23 launch, additional modules will be added to the toolkit in other thematic legal areas – including transport, planning, water, health, land use and forestry and disaster risk management.

The toolkit will be showcased at a side event hosted by UNFCCC, UN Environment and the Commonwealth Secretariat on Wednesday, November 8, and at an expert roundtable at ‘Climate Law and Governance Day’ on Friday, November 10. On both occasions, staff from the Commonwealth Secretariat will speak or chair.