Three-quarters of the world's annual emissions of greenhouse gases are now limited by national targets, according to a study by Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Big as that may sound, collectively it still falls short of what is required to avoid warming beyond two degrees C. But the authors are confident the existence of national targets allows for stronger emission cuts after the Paris summit in December.
National climate laws have mushroomed from a mere 54 in 1997 to 804 today, showing clearly that climate risks are being taken seriously by nations.
The study allows cross-country comparisons to hold governments accountable for their targets, say experts from the institute.
Lead author of the study, Michal Nachmany, said: "With three-quarters of the world's greenhouse gas emissions now covered by national targets, we can be more confident about the credibility of the pledges that countries will make ahead of the crucial United Nations summit in Paris in December this year."
The 2015 Global Climate Legislation Study, covering 98 countries plus the European Union which are together responsible for 93% of global emissions, will be presented to delegates on Tuesday (2 June) in Bonn, Germany, where the latest round of United Nations climate change negotiations is taking place.
The findings will be presented on Tuesday 2 June in Bonn, Germany, where the latest round of United Nations climate change talks is taking place.
The 10-day meet seeks to trim down the 80-page compendium before the Paris meet and decide on need for intermediate goals in emissions reductions and regular meetings to push for deepening the cuts.
Current emissions trends puts the planet on track for a warming as high as 4.8 C during the century.
On the positive side highlighted by the Grantham study, the 98 countries and the European Union together had 804 climate laws and policies at the end of 2014, compared with 426 in 2009, during the Copenhagen climate meet.
In 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol was agreed upon, these countries had just 54 climate laws and policies between them.
The study points out that 53 countries, including the 28 member states of the European Union, have national targets that set either absolute or relative limits on annual emissions of greenhouse gases across their economies.
Professor Sam Fankhauser, the study's other author said: "Every five or so years the number of climate laws and policies across the world has doubled. This growing amount of legislation provides evidence that the world's major emitters are taking serious steps to tackle climate change in their countries. By writing their intentions into law, the world's leaders have shown that international climate change talks do lead to national action in the vast majority of countries."
Adaptation and risk assessment
While 75 countries plus the European Union have frameworks for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, 64 countries have frameworks for adapting to the impacts of climate change. Only 37 countries have completed a fully comprehensive national climate change risk assessment.
Carbon pricing has been adopted by 47 countries, including the 28 member states of the European Union.
Graham Stuart, a Member of the UK Parliament and Chair of GLOBE, said: "The study allows cross-country comparison so that governments can be held to account for their response to climate risks. It builds on earlier editions by GLOBE and the Grantham Research Institute, and shows both the progress made and how much more needs to be done."
The study has been sponsored by GLOBE, the Global Legislators Organisation, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the world organisation of parliaments which was established in 1889.
Saber Chowdhury, a member of the Bangladesh parliament and president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, said: "As mandated representatives of the people, parliamentarians are duty-bound to enact and amend laws, approve national budgets and hold governments to account. It is for that reason that we consider periodic reviews of climate change legislation to be so important."
Cuts too less
Experts at the Grantham institute had recently expressed disappointment with national pledges on emission cuts made so far, saying that it would not limit the warming to less than two degrees.
The EU, the United States and China together are proposing annual emissions of between 20.9 billion and 22.3 billion tonnes by 2030, leaving about annual 23 billion tonnes for the rest of the world. But trends indicate their emissions are expected to rise to about 35 billion tonnes by 2030.
The combined total for the world then exceeds safe limits by at least 13 billion tones.
A warming beyond two degrees C would set off irreversible climate change, the IPCC has warned. An agreement at the Paris meet is hoped to replace the Kyoto Protocol after 2020.