This document outlines the definitions, scope, and principles used in 'Climate Change Laws of the World'. It will be updated shortly to reflect all changes to the website that have been introduced in December 2019. 

Scope of documents included

The analysis covers all UN and UNFCCC parties, including the European Union, as well as a number of countries, regions and territories that are not UN or UNFCCC members (e.g. Taiwan, Palestine and Western Sahara). The database currently includes legislation at the national level only, with the exception of EU legislation. 
The study only included laws and policies that have been passed by legislative branches or published by executive branches, and that are no longer in draft form. To the best of our ability, we capture major amendments to legislation. Laws that are outdated, either because they have been repealed, replaced or reversed, are not currently included. Documents that have been repealed, or that are no longer in force for another reason, are classified as out of scope and referenced under the documents replacing them. This is currently under review, and we may include repealed/out of date laws and policies in the future.

Definitions and categorisation

In general, our approach has been to be inclusive and flexible with definitions, in order to allow for the different regulatory approaches and cultures amongst 200 countries, as well as to recognise the elusive boundaries of climate change, which by its nature spans multiple sectors and issues. We have therefore taken the liberty to include documents which do not pass stringent legal tests of being 'legally binding' - as by omitting them would have not captured the country's policy response. Likewise, where climate change overlaps significantly with other issues, such as development or disaster risk management, we have attempted to include those laws and policies that will be relevant to both issues. We invite the users to exercise their judgment on any data sub-sets that serve their research and policy purposes. We recognise ambiguities relating to the term “climate change” and the term “laws”. Climate change-related laws and policies documents refer to pieces related to reducing energy demand; promoting of low carbon energy supply; low-carbon buildings; carbon pricing; lower industry emissions; tackling deforestation and promoting sustainable land use; other mitigation efforts; research and development; sustainable transportation; enhancing adaptation capabilities; and natural disaster risk management. 
The database distinguishes between Laws or legislative acts (e.g. acts, laws, decree-laws), which were passed by a parliament or equivalent legislative authority, and Policies, or other executive provisions (e.g. presidential decrees, executive orders, regulations, government policies, strategies or plans), which were published or decreed by the government, president or equivalent executive authority. The document recorded has to be of the highest possible status dealing with a given matter: for example, an order is only referenced under a decree if it merely implements it, but can be included as such if no higher-ranking document exists. This distinction was applied with flexibility on a country-by-country basis to ensure the best reflection of the overall legislative, regulatory and policy response to climate change in each sovereign territory. Laws’ and policies’ titles presented in the database generally reflect the official (translated) name. If necessary, titles are adapted to provide information about their core focus in the shortest manner possible.
We classify Framework laws or policies As overarching regulatory, supra- sectoral instruments, frameworks can provide insight into national governments’ priorities and allocation of resources.

Scope of issues

Mitigation laws and policies refer to a legislative or executive disposition focused on curbing a country’s greenhouse gases emissions in one sector or more, directly or indirectly (institutional reforms, R&D, etc), over any past or future period. The sectors considered are as following:
  • Buildings (energy performance and other “green)
  • Taxation and green finance (carbon tax)
  • Energy supply
  • Energy demand (including energy efficiency)
  • Industry (involving all types of greenhouse gases)
  • Transportation (low-carbon drivetrains and fuels, public transport and active travel modes)
  • Land use, forestry conservation and management (REDD+, LULUCF). Laws and policies addressing forests and land use are included as long as they explicitly support climate change mitigation through activities that reduce emissions and increase carbon removals. Typically (but not exclusively), these would be under the REDD+ framework. General forest laws that regulate forest or timber management are not included, even if they have implicit consequences for climate change mitigation.
  • Not included: nuclear energy, gases harming the ozone layer, general environmental law.

Issues of delineation are particularly prominent for laws dealing with climate change adaptation. This is related to the complex reality of adaptation policies. First, a country’s approach to adaptation is determined by its climate and geography and therefore calls for context-specific strategies. For example, adaptation in one country may involve improving protection against sea-level rise, whereas in another it may involve addressing drought-related risks and improving water management. Therefore, many adaptation policies are embedded in development policies, general planning policies, risk-reduction and disaster management policies, water policies, health policies etc., making them more difficult to identify.
Second, adaptation measures are, by nature, less centralised than mitigation measures, as they often require action by local governments, from local building planning to evacuation plans. This study’s focus on national level legislation, therefore, means that it doesn’t capture the full breadth of adaptation activities in most countries. National adaptation programmes of action (NAPAs), which are developed under the scope of the UNFCCC, are not included in the detailed legislative or executive portfolios in country chapters, nor were they listed as framework policies for adaptation, unless they have been converted into explicit government policies or legislative acts. 
  • The database captures adaptation laws and policies if they are explicitly climate change-related and deal with:
  • water management,
  • desertification, agriculture, urban planning and general land use,
  • information and preparedness to adverse climatic events.
  • Green finance
  • Not included: the database excludes documents focusing on biodiversity conservation, desalination, preparedness to earthquakes, atomic energy and control of plastic pollution. 
Disaster risk management
Since mid-2019, the list of documents further includes laws dealing with disaster risk management (DRM) and disaster risk reduction (DRR), although the list is not comprehensive yet. Such documents often target natural and human disasters in a holistic manner, making it harder to isolate climate-related adverse events. These events are usually qualified of extreme, and can refer to hurricanes, flooding, heatwaves, droughts, forest fires, sea-level rise. The database is not systematic yet.
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