Our century faces critical global risks and challenges, including rising poverty, global pandemics and the shattering of planetary boundaries, especially in relation to global climate change. The science is clear. Human activities, particularly rising emissions levels due to fossil fuel combustion and other embedded high carbon intensity economic systems, are causing dangerous consequences.
Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Paris Agreement, parties are obliged to submit and maintain an up-to-date Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC); to provide reports related to emissions reductions and technology transfer and on financial contributions; and to participate (in good faith) in the facilitative dialogue. An implementation and compliance mechanism supports this work.
Despite the intricate international accord and many firm pledges by Parties, however, implementation of the Paris Agreement across all parties remains a critical challenge. In order to convert ambitious new commitments into obligations, domestic legal and public policy reform can contribute to many aspects of implementing the outcomes and impressive pledges of the Glasgow CoP26 and beyond. Legal and governance innovations across a variety of sectors can advance greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions mitigation, adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change impacts, and climate finance. Each pathway, however, requires embedded regional and domestic regulatory, institutional and public policy capacity, and this capacity remains extremely limited in nearly all jurisdictions.
To successfully bridge the capacity chasm in climate law and public policy, institutions of all kinds must urgently undertake increased efforts to open opportunities for newly capable law and policy graduates and professionals to succeed in careers furthering the Paris Agreement in a way that supports the world’s Sustainable Development Goals. Research and educational institutions will play a critical role in scaling up contributions to build capacity for climate change action, and much work remains to harness the full potential of law and policy communities of practice to foster, rather than frustrate, sustainable development.