Why legislators matter
Updated: Nov 28, 2022
...and how we can be the golden thread between global commitments & domestic delivery
COP 27 - GLOBE Parliamentary Blog series
By Baroness Hayman, Co-Chair of Peers for the Planet
As nations gather in Sharm El-Sheikh the involvement of legislators is crucial, as the decisions we make and the leadership we provide will be the golden thread between global commitments and domestic delivery of our shared climate goals.
Whilst the destination we are aiming for may be the same, the challenges we face as individual countries to respond to the climate crisis are not.
For countries like the UK, our focus today is on agreeing the most efficient path to decarbonising and adapting to climate change during a time of a worldwide economic crisis, whilst for others, it is about survival, and managing the consequences of the very real impacts of climate change today.
The need for finance solutions
I had the privilege over the past few weeks of meeting leaders from the global south who provided honest and sobering accounts of the impacts they are facing in their countries today, and the injustice rightly felt about why they are having to pay for the consequences of somebody else’s carbon emissions.
The former President of the Maldives, Mohammed Nasheed, recently addressed a cross-party meeting in the UK parliament and told us how the costs of adaption in the Maldives has risen to 30% of government spending annually and a further 25% of income is spent on debt repayments – even though large parts of the public infrastructure this was used to fund has now been washed away.
Mr Nasheed called for legislators to use their influence to make progress on financing loss and damage, and for any financial solutions agreed to empower climate vulnerable nations to invest in the climate resilience solutions they are best placed to determine they need.
So what is the responsibility of developed nations?
First and foremost, developed nations need to get their own houses in order.
In the UK we have had legislation in place since 2008 that binds us to delivering net-zero emissions by 2050. Yet in 2022, we still do not have comprehensive, sectoral strategies, policies and timetables agreed to get us there, and committed parliamentarians are still having to expend great energy to ensure our international climate commitments are embedded in all our decision making.
Second, developed nations need to lift their heads above domestic concerns and engage meaningfully with discussions on how we can finance climate adaptation and decarbonisation on a global scale. We need to grasp the thorny issue of how best to compensate climate vulnerable countries for the loss and damage they are experiencing – despite contributing the least to climate impacts.
Our high historic emissions in the UK as the first country to industrialise and our current high per capita carbon emissions – especially when off-shore emissions are taken into account - mean there needs to be a far stronger equity dimension to our commitment to tackle climate change. The UK public understand the need to move faster than much of the rest of the world with polls consistently underlining the public’s desire for the UK to show global leadership.
Why legislators matter
This year as we gather at COP27, our domestic legislative and policy programmes remain pivotal to our credibility as legislators in driving forward global action. Legislators in every country are key to securing a golden thread that links international commitment to effective national and local implementation.
Of course, every country has its unique challenges and will need to plot its own pathway in response to the climate crisis. Whether it is restoring mangroves and coral reefs in the Maldives as nature-based adaptation solutions or reducing energy demand and upgrading the energy efficiency of our leaky homes in colder northern climates.
But, crucially, progress will be determined not just by our national responses to climate change but also by how we support each other along the way.
Our role as legislators must be to argue, agitate and legislate for this change now – to protect and strengthen domestic and global collaboration and live up to our responsibilities to each other as a global community.
This blog was published as part of the daily COP 27 - GLOBE Parliamentary Blog series