Climate Change Laws of the World


More and more countries are adopting or amending climate change framework laws. These laws are needed for successful implementation of the Paris Agreement. This policy insight examines the elements that can be ‘built in’ to climate change framework laws to specify accountability for the implementation of the core obligations contained within those laws.

While previous work has identified several key elements that should be considered when designing or assessing climate change framework legislation, to date there has been no comprehensive review of the mechanisms by which framework legislation may create processes to ensure that actors responsible for their implementation are made accountable for progress. This policy insight aims to bridge that gap.

Looking beyond the question of emissions reduction targets and considering a broader range of obligations that can be imposed through framework legislation, the authors have reviewed 43 climate change framework laws to assess the level of integration of four accountability elements (see Figure), in relation to critical functions of framework laws. The laws represent the majority (43 out of 46) of framework laws included in the Climate Change Laws of the World database, which, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, in turn represent most if not all of the framework laws in place globally at the time of the analysis (August 2021).

Elements of an accountability system

The four accountability elements can be identified by asking the following questions:

  • What obligations are created? What are actors required to do?
  • Who is accountable to whom? Does the law specify who is responsible for fulfilling obligations and to whom that responsibility is owed?
  • How is compliance assessed? Does the law specify the process for determining compliance?
  • What happens in the case of non-compliance? Does the law specify what happens? What are the penalties for failing to meet obligations or processes for correction?

The authors make the following recommendations:

All stakeholders should:

  • Consider explicitly incorporating accountability mechanisms into new framework laws or when revising existing framework laws.
  • Ensure that the key elements of accountability for the implementation of climate legislation are addressed [see above].

Legislators and those involved in legislative drafting should:

  • Introduce provisions enabling post-legislative review by parliaments, addressing compliance with the specific duties established by the legislation, the effectiveness of the legislation, and specifying what action the parliament is expected to take following the review.
  • Ensure that post-legislative parliamentary scrutiny is accompanied or informed by other avenues for stakeholder engagement, including public participation.
  • Provide greater clarity on sanctions or corrective actions in the event of a failure to comply.
  • Create a clear mandate for future regulation of private entities or include specific provisions relating to these entities.
  • Consider introducing explicit provisions related to court proceedings and dispute resolution.
  • Consider pairing trust-based accountability systems with stronger sanctions-based approaches.
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