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World legislators urge domestic action in the lead up to critical climate negotiations

As lawmakers from around the world gathered in Mexico City for the World Summit of Legislators, negotiators in Bonn began preliminary work on an international climate treaty.

As lawmakers from around the world gathered in Mexico City for the World Summit of Legislators, negotiators in Bonn began preliminary work on an international climate treaty. Creative Commons: The Adopt a Negotiator Project, 2014.

A group of more than 400 legislators representing 80 countries affirmed that passing strong national laws to combat climate change is the best foundation for an ambitious international agreement at the critical Paris talks in 2015.

At the end of the three-day World Summit of Legislators in Mexico City, the group of legislators proposed a resolution that would require signatories to assess existing climate change legislation and work quickly to strengthen laws to hold global warming to an average temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius. The resolution is backed by the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE), the organizers of the summit.

The resolution calls upon governments an the United Nations to recognize that a “new generation” of international agreements is needed that will require countries “to put into national laws the commitments and contributions they make” during international negotiation settings.

In a statement, former UK deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott said:

Having been the lead European negotiator at the Kyoto talks, it is clear to me that success at the Paris COP in 2015 will require a new type of climate agreement that learns the lessons from Kyoto and Copenhagen. The World Summit of Legislators has shown the way forward with a blueprint that puts domestic legislation at its heart, setting the agenda for the UN talks in Bonn this week, Lima in November, and Paris next year.

A report released by GLOBE in February shows that the world’s governments have overseen a dramatic increase in climate-related legislation since the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997. At that time, only 47 laws related to climate change had been passed in 66 key countries. By the end of 2013, however, those same countries have passed 487 climate-change related laws.

As of 2013, more than 90 percent of the countries have passed laws to promote domestic clean energy and over 75 percent have legislated to promote energy efficiency.

Nevertheless, both GLOBE and the summit’s attendees recognize that stronger action is desperately needed to halt the emission of greenhouse gases, which is driving dramatic changes to the Earth’s climate.

Calling domestic legislation “the linchpin between action on the ground and international agreement,” UN climate change chief Christiana Figueres urged attendees to pass strong laws that would shepherd world economies into a low-carbon era. In a video address, she said:

Make these laws so durable and that they are not the subject of shifting winds of politics. When you do that, you give business and finance a clear signal for developing long-term growth strategy. You point investment towards energy and innovation solutions, you put the architecture in place to implement the outcomes of an ambitious agreement of your country.

Climate negotiators are facing a crowded calendar in the lead-up to Paris. In Bonn, ministers are currently gathered to prepare for the UNFCCC gathering in Lima, Peru this winter. The Lima conference will be the last major chance for countries to compile a draft agreement that could be signed in 2015.

Ban Ki-moon also has organized a “Climate Leaders Summit” that will take place in New York City just months before the Lima talks. The event will attempt to spur key decision-makers in government, finance, business, and civil society to take action that could help make Lima, and then Paris, a success. Tens of thousands of people are expected to demonstrate around the summit in what has been dubbed the “People’s Climate March.

There’s no sure way to know whether the international negotiations in Paris will bear fruit. While some promising actions have emerged from economies large and small—like the recent carbon emissions standards announced by the US Environmental Protection Agency and Finland’s new legally binding target of 80 percent emissions reductions by 2050—there is still plenty of room for the world’s governments to fail.

Despite hinting at a nationwide emissions cap, China has yet to make concrete steps that would ease international negotiations. And earlier this week, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Peru’s environment minister, expressed concern about having enough time to finalize a comprehensive deal. In an interview with RTCC, he said:

Eighteen months it is not enough time to finish with all this discussion. So probably in Lima what we’re going to have is some very realistic narrative, to try to lift to Paris a draft agreement that could be signed by the end of 2015.

The World Summit of Legislators is just one step in part of an enormous diplomatic undertaking. But if one thing is clear, it is that nations must set the stage for their negotiators by beginning climate action at home.

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