Climate: Law on Mother Earth

WHEN Tony Abbott became Australia’s prime minister in 2013, almost his first acts were to abolish the country’s Climate Commission and to promise the repeal of a carbon tax. Soon after, Japan scrapped plans to cut carbon emissions by 25% by 2020, citing its post-tsunami shutdown of nuclear-power plants. Such actions in large countries—Japan is the fifth biggest carbon emitter; Australia the 17th—give the impression that the world as a whole is stepping away from environmental rules and laws.But according to lawmakers themselves, that impression is false. In a review published on February 27th of national climate legislation in 66 countries, accounting for 88% of carbon emissions, they calculated that almost half of their parliaments passed climate-change or energy-efficiency acts in 2013. Only Japan and Australia went the other way.The new laws varied hugely. Some were sweeping—take Bolivia’s whimsically named Law on Mother Earth and Integral Development to Live Well. Others were narrowly targeted but could have a big impact: Canada introduced rules on exhaust from heavy lorries. Still others, including an environmental-protection law in the poor and violent Democratic Republic of Congo, may have all too little effect. The review considered only the quantity of legislation, not its quality. It says nothing about whether laws are implemented or effective.All the same, the…

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