DELC

Division of Environmental Law and Conventions

Laws for a Green Economy

BACKGROUND

A green economy is one that results in increased human well-being & social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks & ecological scarcities. In another word, it is an economy whose growth of income and jobs is driven by investmentsthat reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance efficiency and sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services. A green economy is the economic vehicle for sustainable development, and it is a new economic paradigm that can drive growth of income and jobs, without creating environmental risk as well has strategies to end the persistence of poverty.

The promotion of green economy requires enabling conditions. National laws and regulatory instruments, as key enabling conditions, play a vital role in promoting green economy. They ensure the shared responsibilities of different stakeholders; shift funding towards green investment; create or strengthen institutional arrangements for facilitating green economy; provide incentives for the development of green technologies or disincentives for activities that harms the environment; and specify other policy measure for accelerating resource efficiency and green economy.

OVERVIEW OF LEGAL ISSUES

Currently there are already many innovative national laws and regulations around the world to support resource efficiency, sustainable production and consumption and promote greening national economy. These new and innovative legislations and regulatory regimes combine traditional commend-and-control regulatory measures with new innovative tools including collective public action to change the patterns of production and consumption and economic instruments to shifting funding towards green investment and clean technology development to improve resource efficiency. However, these innovative laws and regulations are not well known to other countries, nor are they carefully analyzed as to what mechanisms have worked, what have not and what can be done to improve their effectiveness and demonstrated.

At the same time, other emerging markets and least developed countries in their drive to develop and to alleviate poverty have found their national laws and regulations inadequate and unable to address the evolving needs and challenges they are facing in their development efforts. Environmental considerations in relevant policy and legal frameworks are often haphazard, lack needed integration and holistic approaches. As a result many fast growing local industries find themselves entering new terrain without proper regulatory frameworks and oversight.

Even in countries that have adopted new and innovative legislation and regulatory instruments, weak implementation as well as lack of capacity of the enforcing agencies for the implementation are challenges they are facing.

FOCUS OF DELC'S WORK

The objective of DELC’s work in this area is to support the development and application of laws and integrated regulatory approaches to advance sustainable patterns of production and consumption in selected sectors including the food and manufacturing industries of the rapidly industrializing, emerging market economies and other developing countries.

Black Carbon and Short-lived Climate Forcers

  • What are short-lived climate forcers?

Black carbon is one of the harmful air pollutants known as short-lived climate forcers (SLCFs). SLCFs are substances that contribute to global warming but, in contrast to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, have a relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere. The main SLCFs apart from black carbon are tropospheric ozone and its precursors, such as methane.

Scientific findings have shown that reducing SLCFs would slow the pace of global warming very quickly, reduce some regional climate impacts and have significant benefits of reducing air pollution and improving air quality, which in turn have important effects in terms of crop yields and related food security, public health and development. 

The recent UNEP Emissions Gap Report shows that the pledges made in response to the Copenhagen Accord are insufficient to hold global temperatures below a 2˚C rise, and will in fact see a rise in global temperatures of 2.5˚C to 5˚C, with a best estimate of 3.5˚C. Harnessing the near-term benefits for the global climate of reducing SLCFs is therefore an integral part of a global strategy to limit the increase in global temperatures below 2˚C, in line with the goal agreed by parties to the UNFCCC (Decision 2/CP15 and Decision 1/CP16). The recent UNEP/WMO Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone found that the best option for mitigating global warming is to combine immediate reductions of SLCFs with reductions of carbon dioxide, which slows both near- and longer-term global warming and improves society’s chances of holding global temperature change below 2˚C. 

  • Background

The United Nations has been requested to urgently provide advice on actions to reduce the impact SLCFs (Anchorage Declaration; Tromsø Declaration). In 2011, UNEP and WMO released the Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozonewhich assessed the existing science and policy options for addressing SLCFs, and developed an outlook to 2070 which illustrates the benefits of decisive action and the risks to climate, public health and crop yields over the coming decades in the case of inaction. The Assessment was accompanied by a Summary for Decision Makers and followed by a Science-Policy Brief which pointed towards the need to move towards a strategy for translating the scientific findings into policy to reduce emissions of SLCFs. 

  •  DELC's Contribution

As part of DELC’s efforts towards raising awareness and providing the necessary knowledge basis for addressing SLCFs, DELC has prepared a Report on Near-term Climate Protection and Clean Air Benefits: Options for Controlling Short-lived Climate Forcers, intended for policy-makers in the fields of climate change and air pollution. The Report introduces the policy makers to the scientific findings and rationale for addressing SLCFs, which include very important co-benefits in the areas of climate and air pollution, as well as related health, food security and development dimensions. The Report describes measures that could be used to reduce emissions and the underlying policy, regulatory and governance aspects, as well as enabling mechanisms that will support countries in their efforts to curb emissions. To support the implementation of the measures, the Report describes actions that can be taken at the national, regional and global levels, largely building on existing mechanisms as its purpose is to provide options for short-term action.