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The law on climate change is based on:

  • International agreements and instruments.
  • Law and measures adopted by the European Community
  • UK national laws

International Agreements and Instruments

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
An international agreement developed under the auspices of the United Nations which provides the basis for global action on climate change. The Convention was adopted in 1992 and came into force in 1994.
Kyoto Protocol
A protocol to the UNFCCC. It sets out legally binding emissions targets for developed countries to reduce their collective greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% to 1990 levels over a five year period 2008-2012.
Marrakesh Accords
A rule book developed by the Conference of Parties 7 (COP 7) 2001 for the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.
Copenhagen Accord
A non-binding international agreement made at the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen. Under the Accord countries have agreed voluntarily to commit to take action to tackle climate change, including specifying the cuts they pledge to make to carbon emissions by 2020. The Accord also provides for funding from developed countries to help poorer countries adapt to the impacts of climate change and adopt emission reduction measures.

Laws and Measures adopted by the European Community

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on EU policies and measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: towards a European Climate Change Programme (ECCP) COM/2000/0088 final
Provides for the setting up an inter-departmental body tasked with identifying and preparing the implementation of measures to combat climate change.
Communication from the Commission, of 10 January 2007, entitled: "Limiting Global Climate Change to 2 degrees Celsius - The way ahead for 2020 and beyond" [COM(2007) 2 final]
Sets out the EC strategy on climate change: the way ahead for 2020 and beyond.
Communication from the Commission to the European Council and the European Parliament of 10 January 2007, "An energy policy for Europe" [COM(2007) 1 final
Sets out European Energy Policy measures known as the 'energy' package
Council Directive 2003/96/EC of 27 October 2003 restructuring the Community framework for the taxation of energy products and electricity
Directive 2002/91/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2002 on the energy performance of buildings.
Requires member states to apply minimum requirements on the energy performance of new and existing buildings, ensure the certification of their energy performance and requires the regular inspection of boilers and air conditioning systems in buildings.
Directive 2003/87/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 October 2003
Establishes a system for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community and amends Council Directive 96/61/EC
Directive 2004/101/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 October 2004 amending Directive 2003/87/EC
Establishes a scheme for greenhouse gas emission allowance trading within the Community, in respect of the Kyoto Protocol's project mechanisms
Directive 2009/28/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources
Replaces previous renewables and biofuels directives, and requires member states to share the task of achieving the EU’s 20 percent renewables target by 2020.
Directive 2009/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 amending Directive 2003/87/EC
Revises and extends the greenhouse gas emissions trading system for Phase III which will run from 2013 to 2020
Directive 2009/31/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 April 2009 on the geological storage of carbon dioxide
Regulates carbon capture and storage

UK National Laws

The Finance Act 2000 as amended
Sets out and implements the climate change levy, a kind of green tax.
Climate Change Levy (General) Regulations 2001
Provide an exemption from the climate change levy for renewable electricity. These Regulations have been amended several times.
Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006
Tackles reduction of emissions of greenhouse gases, the alleviation of fuel poverty and other related issues.
The Finance Act 2006 (Climate Change Levy: Amendments and Transitional Savings in Consequence of Abolition of Half-rate Supplies) (Appointed Day) Order 2007
Amends the Finance Act 2000 Schedule 6 in relation to climate change levy’s half-rate supplies which were abolished as of 1st April 2006.
Climate Change Act 2008
Sets out national measures to tackle climate change including targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050.
Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009
Sets out long term and interim measures for Scotland in addressing climate change, including aspects on greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency.
CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme Order 2010
Establishes the CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, a new emissions trading scheme. It aims to improve energy efficiency in large organisations.
The Energy Act 2011
Includes provision for the new Green Deal financial mechanism aimed at promoting energy efficiency measures.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme Regulations 2012
Implement the EU Emissions Trading Scheme Directive.
The Energy Act 2013
Includes provision for Contracts for Difference (CFD): long-term contracts to provide stable and predictable incentives for companies to invest in low-carbon generation.

UK Policies

The Carbon Plan: Delivering our low carbon future, December 2011
Sets out policies and proposals for meeting the first four carbon budgets and delivering a 50 percent cut in emissions on 1990 levels by 2027.
National Adaptation Programme, July 2013 (Defra)
Sets out the UK government's policies and actions for adapting to climate change.
Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting the Emissions Reduction Targets 2013-2027, June 2013

Please note that this list is not exhaustive.

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