The Impact of Climate Change on Legal Frameworks Worldwide

The impact of climate change impacts everyone, and it will get worse. According to the United Nations, its impact “will not be borne equally or fairly” since it affects people differently, depending on whether they are wealthy or poor, men or women, and across generations.

Unfortunately, those who have contributed the least towards it will feel its impact most, with the perpetrators feeling it the least. Concern Worldwide writes: “Climate vulnerability rests not only on the impacts of climate change on a country or community but on the ability to deal with these impacts.” Therefore, communities with the fewest resources are left most vulnerable.

Global Legal Frameworks

Across the globe, governments have climate change legislation, consisting of various laws and policies to address multiple actions concerning the adaption of procedures, risk management, and reducing the effects in several sectors, including the environment, health, water, agriculture, etc.

However, countries also have subsets of climate laws, linking their national agendas with international ones. These are known as “framework legislation” or “framework climate laws.” With these laws, countries legislate how to meet targets within specific time frames.

But how does climate change legislation relate to worldwide legal frameworks? The Rio Earth Summit, held in 1992, was the first time world leaders recognized the importance of establishing institutions and legal frameworks to address the problems presented by climate change.

Consequently, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was established to find ways to control and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Parties of the UNFCCC established a legal framework when they adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015 with mitigation commitments and financial burden sharing. UNFCCC members have made pledges through contributions to help limit global warming.

Some crucial areas covered by the various parties include limiting global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius, global peaking, a market-based approach to voluntary cooperation, addressing loss and damage, and more.

Each party present made National Determined Contributions (NDCs), summarizing how their governments will meet their commitments domestically. However, not all these are legally binding, making it difficult to hold them to their obligations.

Despite their intended actions, governments make pledges that are often difficult to implement since they often don’t conform with the intentions of the private sector and other key stakeholders in their nations, who are mostly unconcerned. Each country can close the gaps in its  NDC commitment by passing climate laws.

Addressing the Issues

In an article about climate change legislation, the London School of Economics and Political Science informs that 2,860 climate-related laws and policies were enforced globally in September 2022. That means the 193 countries (the European Union counts as one of these) that joined the Paris Agreement have at least one law to address climate change or carbon reliance. There are also 2,203 dealing with mitigation, with more than half having an adaption component. Only 424 of these laws and policies include a disaster management component.

Climate Change Justice

However, all these laws and policies don’t address those responsible for the climate crisis. Some countries or communities are left most vulnerable even though they have hardly contributed to the situation, leading to unequal responsibility.

Climate change has impacted the vulnerable most, including women, indigenous people, those with disabilities, those with lower incomes, and those generations who haven’t contributed to the environmental crisis (younger generations).

People have a right to live without fear, and climate change has become a human rights issue. Its impact includes conflicts, displacements, loss of lives, livelihood, and culture. However, many of these people have no access to climate justice.

Examples of Climate Laws and Policies

Countries use various ways to achieve their aims. These fall under the following general categories.

  • Regulations that demand players meet specific standards like emissions disclosures, use or production of fossil fuel restrictions or bans, and laws defining land and transportation use (spatial planning).
  • Implementing economic incentives to find sustainable solutions to meet consumer demands, including subsidies, charging carbon emissions (carbon pricing), or sustainable development.
  • In countries where economic incentives prove insufficient, the state makes direct investments to find solutions. These include nature-based solutions, finding ways to restore ecosystems, and early warning systems for climatic disasters.
  • Raising awareness and increasing education about climate change issues. This category includes enhanced research, efforts toward developing policies, and increased transparency, making citizens aware of how specific policies and products impact the whole effort.
  • Governance measures aimed at helping new and existing bodies to deal with climate change efficiently. Besides putting plans and strategies in place, governments must also ensure a process for monitoring these effectively while involving their citizens and regional authorities. It’s also vital they allow the involvement of crucial international parties.

A Low-Down on Existing Legal Frameworks

Climate framework laws vary, even in the European Union. Additionally, these laws don’t hold future leaders to maintain past actions. However, in countries where citizens can ensure their effectiveness through litigation, leaders cannot easily dismiss the existing legal framework.

According to the London School of Economics, times of fiscal prosperity appear to encourage more legislation. They have also seen that political ideology has a more negligible impact on climate change legislation than initially thought – it’s more related to time spent governing by a political group.

Even though 138 countries made net zero emissions pledges in the last five years, they are still far from reaching several targets. Those countries with a strong rule of law, like the UK, Germany, Denmark, etc., have better success in impacting their CO2 emission reductions.

Strategies for the Future

Governments must continue to take action if they want to meet their Paris Agreement goals. International institutions, NGOs, and other stakeholders must also be involved in creating new laws and policies around climate change. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is open to all countries willing to join its efforts. By joining UNFCCC, countries or regional authorities can present local solutions as part of a global framework. Climate law might prove invaluable in helping countries adjust and plan better when facing extreme weather events. Policies should be established based on scientific evidence to enable us to face and adapt to changes. Countries must ensure legislation establishes accountability mechanisms so we can trust our leaders to abide by their commitments. Lastly, to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, all countries must reform their existing laws or create new ones.

This will ensure a just transition into a low-carbon world and thus help us protect our planet for future generations. By implementing climate law now, we can have a better chance of mitigating the effects of climate change on our lives and environment.

The challenge is learning how to implement these strategies and ensuring that vulnerable members of society are not left behind. Governments must introduce policies that promote equity, ensure fair access to resources such as land-use rights, energy sources, and financial flows, provide access to justice for those adversely affected by climate change, provide legal protection against discrimination, and support efforts to ensure the rights of indigenous peoples.

Strategies on How to Write Effective Climate Change Laws

When writing effective climate change laws, there are certain things to remember.

Firstly, ensuring that legislation is based on the best available scientific evidence and follows an evidence-based approach is important. This will ensure that the law is relevant and up-to-date with current scientific information.

Secondly, it is important to ensure that any proposed laws or policies are well thought out and have realistic goals that consider environmental and social objectives. Furthermore, they should also include measures for monitoring their implementation – such as targets, legal requirements, or incentives – to assess progress over time.

Finally, any proposed legislation should be transparent and involve stakeholders, such as civil society organizations and members of the public. This will help to ensure that the law is effective and that any potential objections or challenges can be addressed before it is implemented.

By following these tips, governments can create comprehensive climate change policies that are well-written, based on scientific evidence, and involve all relevant stakeholders to achieve maximum effectiveness. Doing so will ensure a just transition to a low-carbon future and protect our planet for future generations.

Final Take

Developed countries can pass legal frameworks that make reaching their greenhouse gas targets easier. However, they must involve all the relevant stakeholders when formulating laws and policies, increasing their effectiveness and political legitimacy, resulting in better acceptance.

Developing countries can attract more financing to help them meet their goals by establishing a better legal framework that ensures stakeholders meet their obligations and increase long-term stability.

Since climate change is not going away soon, and things will worsen before they start improving, all humanity faces an existential crisis. Worldwide legal frameworks do force governments to take action, but it’s a responsibility we all share.


What is climate change law?

Climate change law refers to laws and policies passed by governments that address climate change issues, such as mitigation, adaptation, disaster management, loss, and damage. These laws can involve regulations on emissions disclosures, fossil fuel bans or restrictions, carbon pricing, investment in nature-based solutions, and early warning systems for climatic disasters.

How are countries using legal frameworks to tackle climate change?

Countries are using various methods to address their commitments under the Paris Agreement. This includes regulations that demand players meet certain standards; economic incentives such as subsidies or charging carbon emissions; investments into sustainable solutions such as nature-based solutions; raising awareness through education of citizens; and governance measures to ensure plans and strategies are effective and involve citizens, regional authorities, and international parties.

Do legal frameworks for climate change have an impact?

Yes, countries with a strong rule of law have had more success in reducing their CO2 emissions than those without. Legal frameworks can also make it easier for developing countries to attract financing from international donors by ensuring stakeholders meet their obligations and increase long-term stability. Additionally, legal frameworks help ensure accountability on the part of governments so they cannot easily dismiss existing laws.

What role does public opinion play in climate change law?

Public opinion plays an important role in shaping the legal framework surrounding climate change, as citizens need to be aware of how policies and products affect the environment. Governments must also involve all stakeholders when formulating laws and policies to ensure they are effective and politically legitimate, resulting in better acceptance from citizens.

How can we ensure legal frameworks are effective?

To ensure effective legal frameworks, governments should make plans and strategies that are monitored effectively with citizen involvement, regional authorities, and international parties. Additionally, countries should increase transparency so citizens understand how these policies affect them and their environment. Finally, economic incentives such as carbon pricing or subsidies can also be used to find sustainable solutions for consumer demands.