At COP26, experts make a commitment to scale-up climate law and governance tenfold by 2024

Tuesday, December 7, 2021
by Tejas Rao
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Leading experts at COP26 from the University of Waterloo and around the world commit to scale-up climate law and governance capacity worldwide TENFOLD from 600 to 6,000 by 2024.

Professors and Graduate Students from the University of Waterloo were a part of key pledges at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 26th Conference of the Parties (CoP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, including a commitment to scale-up climate law and governance capacity worldwide tenfold by 2024.

Legal and institutional transformation is urgently required to support efforts to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels; to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change; to foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development; and to make finance flows consistent with a pathway towards sustainable development.

169 out of 186 countries have stressed the importance of legal and institutional reform in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the global response to climate change under the Paris Agreement. As 99 countries also emphasize in their NDCs, increases in capacity and practice are crucial for implementation and compliance, as new research by the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL), the University of Cambridge and other partners from Climate Law and Governance Initiative has shown.

Panel of experts at COP26.

Seated panel of experts on stage, set against University of Glasgow Kelvin Gallery background, with Masters of Ceremonies introducing the Climate Law and Governance Day 2021. Photo courtesy of: Dr Markus Gehring, University of Cambridge

Climate finance in many forms, if private and public law and governance can be mobilised at all levels to accelerate ambition and convert ambition to obligations, is crucial in all respects. Indeed, with many countries pledging net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner, alignment of $130 trillion in finance with the Paris Agreement through the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (Gfanz) before 2050, and the Adaptation Fund renewed to higher levels than ever before, law and governance improvements are needed now. For these pledges to meet reality, binding regulations, carefully crafted contracts, disclosure obligations and thousands of other legal tools are required on all levels, rebuilding trust, accountability and compliance towards climate justice.

As Paris Agreement representatives, observers and stakeholders gathered in Glasgow for the COP26 from 1-12 November 2021, the world also convened a community of leading law faculties and legal institutes, international organization counsel, government authorities, law associations, judges, professionals and others responsible for inspiring, innovating and building law, policy and governance capacity.

Indeed, “A massive capacity chasm is gaping in our path ahead,” says Professor Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger, Full Professor of Law, SEED, and International Advisor of the IC3 at University of Waterloo, Senior Director of the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL) and Executive Secretary of the global Climate Law and Governance Initiative at COP26. “We need dynamic climate law and public policy specialists in every country, capable and active in their bar associations, universities, firms and civil society, making net zero a reality across the board. Climate law and public policy must be taught in every law school – backed by new research and training at all levels – for even a hope to implement the Paris Agreement and advance the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

The Climate Law & Governance Day 2021 global symposium was held on 05 November 2021 during the UNFCCC COP 26 in Glasgow and attracted over 1,100 registrants from over 120 countries in person and online across 16 world-class leading sessions and 3 high-level plenaries at the 2021 CLGD with thanks to the University of Glasgow. Co-hosted in the United Kingdom by the University of Glasgow, the University of Cambridge and Strathclyde University, together with the CISDL which hosts the CLGI Secretariat and the new NZLA, which is certified as an Accelerator in the Race to Net Zero of the UK Presidency. CLGD 2021 provided an important opportunity to share ideas, debate trends and advances, and build legal momentum for climate action.

This global symposium also built on an extraordinary online pre-conference on climate law and public policy, co-hosted in the University of Cambridge, Climate Change, the SDGs and the Law on 29-30 October, 2021, which convened over 750 registrants from over 90 countries across two high-level plenaries and six experts panels, engaging leading law professors together with early career scholars, students and practitioners, co-hosted by the Bennett Institute for Public Policy and many other institutions in the University of Cambridge.

Climate Law and Governance Day 2021 seminar room is full.

A view from the back of the Kelvin Gallery, showing packed seats and standing room only for the Climate Law and Governance Day 2021. Photo courtesy of: Mr Freedom-Kai Phillips, University of Cambridge

View from the back of a seminar room.

A view from the back of a seminar room, showing participants listening attentively to Dr Michal Nachmany and Dr Matthew Agarwala, seated on the panel, at Climate Law and Governance Day 2021. Photo courtesy of: Dr Antonieta Nestor, University of Cambridge

We were especially delighted to see multiple graduate students and alumni from the University of Waterloo receive recognition for their research work. Nesma Hassan was awarded Best Poster, for her visually striking summary of her work on Climate Governance in Relation to Urban Water: Management in the Middle East and North Africa. Sarah Norton, Cassandra Hayward & Claire Perttula, received a Judges’ Commendation for Best Paper, for their work, Zero-Carbon Tourism through Law & Policy Frameworks for Building Global Tourism Back Better. Finally, Adwoa Appiah was competitively selected to present her brilliant work on Accessibility of the Green Climate Fund to African Banks for Financing Climate Resilience Projects in Africa, before senior leaders from global financial institutions, including Adv Vesselina Haralampieva, Senior Counsel, European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, as well as Adv Douglas Leys, QC, General Counsel, Green Climate Fund. Congratulations to all of you, who make the Waterloo community so proud.

To share outcomes at COP26 itself, on 06 November key municipal, national, and international innovations were shared in an official Side-Event on Net Zero Climate Law and Governance – Advancing Ambition and Action to Implement the Paris Agreement and the SDGs. The interactive roundtable brought together leading experts from the University of Cambridge, the Net Zero Lawyers Alliance, the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law and other partners of the Climate Law and Governance Initiative, IKEM, the Asociacion Ambiente y Sociedad and Centro Humboldt.

Further, on November 7, 2021, helping to train a new generation of specialists world-wide, the Climate Law & Governance Specialization Course hosted in the University of Strathclyde certified 163 in-person and virtual participants from around the world. Participants gained critical insights from renowned legal experts, deepening their understanding of the legal and institutional mechanisms available to implement their NDCs and the Paris Agreement Indeed, 163 practitioners, scholars and junior members of delegations were certified and recognized as new Climate Law and Governance Specialists at the 2021 Climate Law and Governance Specialization Course, with thanks to the University of Strathclyde, the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law, CISDL and other partners.

Finally, on November 10, 2021, IC3 was proud to host an official side-event in the Blue Zone, Business in the Anthropocene: Accelerating sustainability transformations in small businesses. Set against the systemic risk that the climate crisis has heightened, this panel discussed sustainability transformations in small businesses, especially considering the crucial role they play in communities. Sarah Burch, Associate Professor, Canada Research Chair, and Executive Director, IC3, and Jose DiBella, Postdoctoral Fellow shed light on case-studies of the sustainability transformations they had observed, and optimistic trends for the future. We were especially thrilled to host also a video recording of several Waterloo students who will be involved at the forefront of these revolutions, during this official side-event.

The University of Waterloo is proud to be home to researchers working on these key sustainability solutions and building climate capacity for the future.

Tejas Rao

Mr. Tejas Rao is Secretariat Coordinator, Climate Law & Governance Initiative 2021, and an Associate Fellow with the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law. His research interests include narratives in international environmental law and the global commons. This is his reflection on the activities of the IC3 during COP26.