Concerns about the climate crisis are finding their way into national laws and economic policies. In the US, most environmental efforts take place on state and not federal levels. However there are federal statutes that grant legal authority for environmental protections to the federal government. Those associated with water pollution extend all the way back to The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948. This was the first major US law to address water pollution. Growing public awareness and concern for controlling water pollution led to sweeping amendments in 1972 leading to the Clean Water Act (CWA). US air pollution control is based on the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments (1990 CAAA). These are the latest in a series of amendments made to the Clean Air Act (CAA). This legislation modified and extended federal legal authority provided by the earlier Clean Air Acts of 1963 and 1970.
In 2014, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to cut carbon from the power sector by 30 percent. The US and China have been working together on emissions reduction culminating in the signing of an historic emissions reduction deal with China last year.
However, Republicans in Congress make the passing climate and energy legislation in the US impossible for the foreseeable future. Consequently the Obama administration has come up with a clever approach for a national climate strategy that unlike a treaty does not require the approval of the Senate.
In the ’70s and ’80s Europe integrated environmental concerns into their laws and policies. In 1998 the European Union (EU) signed up to the Kyoto Protocol in 1998. In October European heads of state unanimously endorsed a binding deal that would cut greenhouse gas emissions by forty percent over the next 15 years compared to 1990 levels. They also adopted a non-binding series of agreements that would increase energy efficiency and renewable
energy. The EU met last October to finalize their climate and energy framework to 2030. Part of this initiative is an EU wide Emissions Trading Scheme that focuses on European energy and industry.
The UK government was the first in Europe to pass emissions reduction legislation in 2008 and they recently reiterated their plans to cut GHGs under its climate change act.
Several nations stand out for their environmental policy and legislative efforts. Germany increased oil taxes and provided clean energy incentives. This has decreased the nation’s use of fossil fuels and CO2 emissions. It also spurred the growth of renewable energy, created jobs, increased greener public transportation and biking, The nation has also enhanced its storm water management and increased the number of green roofs.
Sweden is phasing out fossil fuels and replacing them with a wide range of alternatives including wood pellets to hydroelectric, wind, and geothermal. The nation has set the goal of being fossil free by 2020.
French citizens are given tax breaks for homes that install solar panels and the country is increasing organic agriculture and national nature reserves. In 2014, France tabled a bill that will radically reduce greenhouse gases a total of 75 percent by 2050.
On June 6th 2014, Finland approved a proposal for a National Climate Act that
would reduce greenhouse gas emissions a total of 80 percent by 2050. In the summer of 2014 Denmark ratified a plan that will reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2020.
Iceland’s national government has set policy and passed legislation that supports the country’s naturally occurring geothermal resources. The nation’s buses run on hydrogen batteries. Icelandic policy is working towards being carbon and oil free by 2050.
Last year senior Chinese officials indicated that they are working on proposals to cap emissions as are Ireland, South Korea, Mexico and Vietnam.
At a 2014 UN meeting in Mexico a resolution was passed by the majority of the 80 nations present pushing for tougher climate legislation in their domestic parliaments.
The UN has released a set of guidelines for governments to follow when submitting their ‘nationally determined contributions’ to a proposed UN climate deal.
Christiana Figueres, head of the UN’s climate body, said that legislation was key in carrying forward a “clean revolution”.
She said: “Domestic legislation is critical because it is the linchpin between action on the ground and the international agreement.”