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Parliaments, the Environment and Climate Change

AGORA moderator's picture

The world is facing severe challenges relating to climate change and the exploitation of environmental resources.  Parliaments have a key role in setting a country’s wider development vision, and in developing sound environmental policies in support of this vision.  This includes shaping a policy and regulatory framework that promotes mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, the development of renewable energy potential, and the provision of improved energy access and security, among others.  In addition to their law-making functions, parliaments should provide effective oversight to ensure that the legislation it passes is sufficiently funded and implemented, and that the citizens it represents are consulted and included in these decision-making processes. 

Legislators have a wide range of tools at their disposal to carry out these tasks and to promote inclusive, sustainable development that successfully tackles climate change:

  • As a lawmaking institution, parliament is accountable for the laws it makes and amends. It is essential to establish a robust legal framework that governs the development, management and taxation of the energy, forestry and fishery sectors, but that also tackles climate change and establishes much-needed adaptation and mitigation measures. This framework should also function as a sound legal basis for administering the rights and demands of a country’s different stakeholders.   Beyond this, parliament also has a crucial role to play with regard to the ratification of international climate change treaties. Since such treaties have proved extremely difficult to negotiate and have fallen far short of the necessary targets, however, many countries (and their parliaments) are increasingly directing their attention towards climate change frameworks at the national level.
  • As an oversight body, parliament is responsible for holding the government to account for its execution of laws, policies, and funding. Parliament can assume this ‘watchdog’ role through question periods, by conducting public hearings and by inviting government officials to testify before committees.  Parliament also plays a key role in the budgetary cycle by securitizing the expenditure and revenue proposals of the executive, and by overseeing their implementation. An example of this is India, where MPs aligned in the Climate Parliament network  succeeded in having 1% of the national budget earmarked for renewable energy development.  Similarly, in Uganda  MPs succeeded in making access to energy the "9th Millennium Development Goal" for the country. They also established a new national Energy Fund, in which more than $150 million has been invested.
  • As a representational institution, parliament needs to channel the views and concerns of the population to the relevant government actors. This includes a healthy and constructive collaboration with all constituents, including civil society organisations, women, indigenous peoples and citizens in general, to ensure that government decisions reflect the perspectives of all concerned.

1. Parliaments & Climate Change

In most developing countries, including many of those that are not fully democratic, the parliament has a key role to play in both mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. Most countries need to lower their greenhouse gas emissions and urgently reduce their vulnerabilities in the face of an increasing risk of floods, droughts and heat waves, water shortages, air pollution and soil erosion, to name a few. 
This section offers an introduction to the science behind climate change, with a particular focus on mitigation and adaptation.  It also outlines the international action framework, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) , the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  and the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All)  initiative

Addressing climate change is a complex and challenging task, but parliaments and parliamentarians are well-positioned to take action and to deliver much-needed, lasting results. These pages will review key issues with regard to legislation, representation and oversight  on climate change, and will offer concrete action points for MPs to employ in their respective institutions. 

To read more about parliaments and climate change, please click here.

2. Parliaments & Renewable energy

Many countries have started to implement policies and adopt legislation to harness renewable resources  water, sun, wind, geothermal and biomass  to produce electricity, heat and fuel. As the world moves towards adoption of renewable energy as a key source of energy production, the role of parliamentarians has been and will remain critical in developing legislation required to create and deliver access to energy from renewable sources.
The development of renewable energy cannot be achieved without political leadership. Parliamentarians have all the levers they need in order to act: they vote on laws, impose taxes and approve state budgets; they oversee the operations of government and have direct access to Ministers, Prime Ministers and Presidents; they can influence national policy, build strong legal frameworks, direct spending in new directions, and establish stronger policies and targets for action on renewable energy. In short, the transition to a post-fossil fuels world will benefit considerably from the support of parliamentarians ready to use their political capital for the promotion of renewable energy.
To read more about parliaments and renewable energy, please click here.  

3. Deforestation: REDD+

As a contribution to the global fight against climate change, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in developing countries (REDD+) is an international mechanism that creates a financial incentive for developing countries to better protect forests and manage forest- related activities.

Parliaments will be key actors in developing national REDD+ processes. They will produce legislation governing the forestry sector, develop policies on how to regulate forests, and scrutinize the national budget for this process. Finally, parliament is a key mediator between local and national interests. Given their representative role, parliaments make for an excellent forum for ensuring the interests of those that will be most affected by the REDD+ process (such as indigenous peoples).  To read more about REDD+, please click here.

4. Extractive Industries

The oil, gas and mining sectors contribute significantly to government revenues, GDP and export in resource-rich countries. Despite this opportunity for development, many resource-rich countries fail to use the extractive industries sector for wider economic and social development, resulting in higher poverty rates and, in some instances conflict.

Parliament plays an important role in the extractive industries sector, and can contribute to the use of the petroleum and/or mining sectors for long-term sustainable development in a number of meaningful ways.   To read more about parliaments and extractive indutries, please click here