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Global legislators meet to press for national climate laws

MEXICO CITY — Mexican Sen. Laura Rojas made it a point to learn her way around the intricate game of geopolitics that is the U.N. climate talks. Now she’s helping members of other parliaments do the same.

“It’s a huge difference to be there and listen and to know what is happening and the positions of other countries,” Rojas said of the most recent negotiating session in Warsaw, Poland.

Speaking in her office, where a whiteboard lists “el cambio climático” at the top of a list of pressing issues on her agenda, Rojas said experience of being at the talks also helped Mexico’s Legislature buy in early to the U.N. goal of a new global agreement in 2015.

“When the new agreement comes to our Senate to be ratified, they won’t have any problems,” Rojas said.

As ministers and diplomats meet in Bonn, Germany, this week for a midyear round of climate negotiations, more than 400 parliamentarians from 80 countries are gathering here in Mexico’s capital city to push the ground game.

Sponsored by the Global Legislators Organization, the conference is aimed at helping countries develop more climate laws and a stronger voice for national and local lawmakers in the global debate.

More legislators join formal talks

Graham Stuart, a member of the United Kingdom’s Parliament, said he was struck at the first U.N. climate conference he attended, in Montreal in 2005, by the overwhelming presence of civil society groups in the daily meetings with the ministers from his country.

“I looked around the room and I thought that not a single one of them had been elected by a single person to represent them,” Stuart said.

“It’s not so much that legislators need to be at the negotiating table, but that the relevant, informed legislators who sit on environment committees, energy committees, treasury committees, should form part of the overall conference,” he said.

Slowly but surely, that is happening, said Stuart and Adam Matthews, GLOBE’s secretary-general. While most countries, including the United States, don’t have legislators on the team, a growing number, like Brazil and Germany, do.

Meanwhile, Matthews said, a growing number of countries are taking national action. When the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997, 47 climate laws existed across the world. Today, according to a GLOBE study, there are about 487 in 66 countries.

“You’ve got a raft of countries that are really moving in that space,” he said.

More nations pass climate laws

When the study comes out again next year, it will cover 100 nations, and Matthews said he expects to see an increasingly positive trajectory. And the United States, in the wake of proposed U.S. EPA regulations on new power plants, will likely be featured for the first time with an upward green arrow signifying that the country is taking national action.

Paris, Matthews said, “is shaping up to be a summit of what countries are doing at a national level.” But, he argued, the deal should take a “more sophisticated approach” than the Kyoto Protocol by bringing in national governments and finding a way for the U.N. climate regime to recognize their actions.

Rojas, who serves as vice president of GLOBE’s Mexico chapter, said lawmakers, particularly from developing countries, are increasingly interested in technical assistance to create their own climate laws. Mexico, she said, is a model for others.

Mexico’s Legislature is currently working on historic energy reform legislation that will end the 75-year monopoly of Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex). The challenge, she and others said, is ensuring that reform is consistent with the landmark 2012 law that set a target of reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent below business-as-usual levels by 2020.

But, Rojas noted, Mexico has taken to heart the threats posed by climate change and the need for countries of all levels of development to act. Mexico will try to act as a “bridge” between rich and poor nations over the coming years, she said, and helping other nations develop climate laws is part of that goal.

“We see it is very complicated to reach the agreement in the international level,” she said. “If we don’t have national legislation, it is going to be very difficult to achieve.”

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