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Opinion, by Globe International

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With June’s Rio+20 Earth Summit, and this month’s UN climate negotiations in Bonn, legislators have so far been on the margins of the official UN environmental processes. This must change.

How many times have government leaders pledged to reduce carbon emissions or tackle the accelerating loss of biodiversity? If statements and pledges were all that it took to fix the biggest global challenges, the world would not be faced with dangerous concentrations of greenhouse gases, shrinking rainforests and extinctions at up to 1,000 times the natural rate.

The reality is that it takes action on the ground to meet these challenges successfully. Action can be achieved through a variety of ways but one of the most effective is through legislation. And yet legislators have so far been on the margins of the official UN processes to tackle major global issues.

Many governments do not allow them to be part of the official country delegations, forcing them to attend as ‘observers’ which precludes their accessing the key negotiations and sometimes means exclusion altogether as we saw at COP15 in Copenhagen in 2010 when many senior legislators – including committee chairs – were denied access to the conference.

The lack of proper engagement with legislators in the international processes – such as the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, the resulting Conventions on Climate Change, Biological Diversity and Desertification, Johannesburg and the forthcoming Rio+20 Summit – has contributed to the failure to transpose the agreements and objectives of these important summits into national legislation. In most countries governments come and go every few years, providing little consistency in policy making for long term challenges.

Developing and passing national legislation, particularly through the engagement of all major political parties, maximizes the chances that the commitments taken on by governments in international processes are taken seriously and enjoy longevity beyond the short-term political cycles of the government du jour.

When one looks at progress since the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992, much has been achieved. The UN Conventions on Biological Diversity, Climate Change and Desertification have all helped to focus governments’ attention on these important issues and, in many cases, we have seen real progress.

However, despite ‘bending the curve,’ we are still on a trajectory that will lead to dangerous climate change, mass species extinction and excessive loss of tropical rainforests. A focus on developing national legislation in support of the Rio objectives is desperately needed to underpin the political commitments made in 1992 and subsequently. National legislation is a tool that has yet to be utilized fully.

Properly engaging legislators is the best way to encourage the development, passage and implementation of national laws to address these global challenges. That is why GLOBE International is convening the first World Summit of Legislators at Rio in June, in advance of the World Leaders Summit.

This event will bring together senior legislators, including many speakers of Parliaments and Presidents of Congresses, from over a hundred countries. Importantly the delegations will be cross-party to engage senior politicians who are not just influential within the current government but who may be influential in a future government. We will be looking at case studies of good practice in legislation – what has worked, what hasn’t – and will be examining how legislators can use their scrutiny role to better hold governments to account on the commitments they make.

National legislation and more effective scrutiny do not represent a silver bullet but, together, they are an important part of an effective approach to meet these pressing global challenges. We hope that the World Summit of Legislators can help put into place this piece of the jigsaw that was missing from the original process.

Mr Yukio Hatoyama MP, Former Prime Minister of Japan and President of GLOBE Japan
Rt. Hon. John Gummer, Lord Deben, Former UK Secretary of State for the Environment and President of GLOBE International
Senator Cicero Lucena, 1st Secretary of the Senate of Brazil and President of GLOBE Brazil
Senator Rodrigo Rollemberg, Chairman of the Brazilian Senate Environment Committee and Vice President of GLOBE Brazil
Michael Kauch MdB, Member of the German Bundestag and President of GLOBE Germany
Congressman Nicolás, President of GLOBE Mexico
Hon. Cedric Frolick MP, Chairperson of the National Assembly of the Republic of South Africa

Article provided by Emily Marlow, for Globe International.

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