OP-ED: The necessary fusion of climate and the law

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The successful enactment of laws will play a major role in combating climate change

A persistently undermined problem in the world at present is climate change. Climate change is essentially a change in the statistical distribution in the weather patterns and is normally judged by way of the fluctuation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Because of the pandemic that led to mobility restrictions and brought the world economy to a staggering halt, emission of GHG has fallen by 8% which indicates the biggest fall than in any other year on record. 

However, the pandemic is an exceptional situation and a permanent solution is necessary. Needless to say, that solution can be reached by way of laws, and such laws must be brought into action right away. Climate change is not only capable of raising water levels or causing forest fires — it can pulverize the world as we know it. 

As Simon Evans correctly pointed out: “There has been a 20-fold increase in the number of global climate change laws since 1997,” according to the database produced by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, and the Sabin Centre on Climate Change Law. 

The United States itself has nearly 16 statutes, regulations, orders, and policies in order to regulate climate change or to protect the climate. Be that as it may, recent actions taken by the current president have indicated how the country has moved away from the Paris Agreement which set up a “state-by-state” GHG emissions target, aiming to reduce emissions by 20-25%. 

Countries such as New Zealand and Denmark have recently enacted robust and effective laws that can actually make a difference. On November 7, 2019, James Shaw announced on Twitter that New Zealand passed a historic climate change law that would make them “net-zero carbon by 2050 as a country” as the law aims to curtail both long-lived and short-lived GHG such as carbon dioxide and methane.

Denmark, on the contrary, passed a law (currently regarded as the Climate Act) in September 2019 that could make failing to act on climate change illegal. The law is one of a kind because of a few reasons — namely accountability of authorities, evidence-based approach (indicating what share of global emissions Denmark is responsible for), and a net-zero emissions target. 

The law also understands that every country is in this together and therefore, actions must not only be taken to make Denmark free from emissions, but to facilitate other countries to do the same by sharing green technologies across borders. 

In addition to these steps, green life can also be encouraged. According to BBC Future Planet, Bangladesh has done a commendable job by making remarkable floating gardens that are consequently promoting less pollution. Similar measures could be enacted by other countries which will help them reduce pollution and cut down emissions. 

With reference to laws, Bangladesh enacted statutes such as the Factories Act 1965 to reduce industrial pollution and later enacted the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act 1995 to address issues regarding the climate and the environment. 

However, it is pertinent to mention that these laws were made during a period when climate change had not affected human lives or the planet to the extent it has now. Thus, the laws may be amended and new restrictions could be brought into action so that the insightful laws at hand can be sufficiently implemented. 

For any country, laws regarding climate change are not being effective because those adversely affecting the environment are not being held liable. They are not required to provide pecuniary damages and neither are there sufficiently funded associations that could bring issues regarding the environment into the appropriate authorities’ attention.

At this standpoint, it is imperative to mention that because of a lack of powerful laws regulating climate change, countries such as India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Tuvalu, and even Bangladesh are likely to be most affected. Furthermore, as the UNHCR identified, increased disaster threats arising due to climate change can result in the displacement of people and undoubtedly, thousands of deaths.

Discernibly, the repercussions of a lack of laws regulating climate change are disastrous and life-threatening. Thus, it is crucial that much attention is paid to climate change and to the enactment of laws that will look into the implications of present laws more deeply and effectively.

Anusha Islam Raha is a graduate of LLB (Hons) from BPP University, UK. She is currently studying LLM and pursuing her career as a teacher.

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