Climate laws in Europe – essential for achieving climate neutrality

While the Paris Agreement sets a global temperature target, it leaves EU Member States a great deal of flexibility to stay below this threshold. Similarly, the emission reduction obligations of EU Member States gives leeway to deciding how to implement them at national level. Many countries therefore adopted climate change framework legislation to set a broad national framework to redress specific problems posed by climate change in an overarching or otherwise broadly strategic manner. These laws are also the best instrument for incorporating a climate neutrality target or date.

More than half of the EU Member States and several neighbouring countries have so far adopted or are in the process of adopting framework climate laws – which vary as much in scope as in content. In the best case scenarios, the laws contain a set of governance mechanisms including, but not limited to, monitoring, public participation and the creation of an independent expert body to advise policy makers. These mechanisms have the benefit of guaranteeing that during planned governance stocktakes, climate will always be high in the political agenda.

The growing number of European countries adopting national climate laws demonstrate a strong and growing consensus that robust national ownership of the responsibility to achieve climate neutrality is crucial for delivery. However, this report shows that not all European states have adopted national framework climate laws yet and not all climate laws are equally strong. In the EU context, it means that the European Climate Law will be implemented against a background of highly inconsistent standards of national climate ambition and governance enabling conditions. If this climate neutrality ‘ownership gap’ is not addressed, it risks allowing Member States to believe that others are more responsible than they are.

This report gives an overview of the climate law situation in Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, North Macedonia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Turkey. The report is an updated second edition, the first of which was published in May 2022.

 

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