Draft 'Climate law' raises eyebrows among environment experts

The Ministry of Climate and Energy has released a draft Climate Law for public consultation. The document is designed to bring together all climate change-related issues that will affect everyone now or in the near future. The large draft law on 50 pages awaits public opinions within the next two weeks. Professionals already see a series of challenges, Latvian Radio reported on September 6.

The new law plans to bring together rules on greenhouse gas emissions reduction, carbon removal, and adaptation to climate change in one place. The aim of the document is to contribute to limiting climate change and its negative effects in Latvia and to move towards climate neutrality.

For this to happen, new restrictions are expected in the coming years, which will affect virtually every resident.

Climate and Energy Minister Raimonds Čudars (New Unity) said: "In Latvia, it is a reduction in GHG emissions by 17% in 2030 compared to 2005. This is an ambitious target, although if we look at Europe as a whole, it is one of the lowest for Latvia. This reduction will affect a number of sectoral sectors. Firstly, transport, agriculture, land use, forestry, and energy sectors. The draft law provides for a division of responsibility between these sectors for achieving these objectives."

For example, the emissions trading system will be expanded in the coming years and will not only affect energy companies but also transport and buildings. This, in turn, means that more intensive efforts will be made to encourage people to opt out of fossil fuels and to ensure energy savings in their homes.

"I think we need to find out here the measures that give the most effective way to reduce GHG emissions, at the same time with the least cost. It is, of course, sector-specific, it is important for industries to get involved," said Čudars.

The first reservations about the draft law are already stated by the “Green Liberty” (Zaļā brīvība) association, which has also participated in the evaluation of the original version of the draft law. The head of the organization, Jānis Brizga, has concerns about whether the burden of cutting emissions will be distributed fairly, as a small proportion of the public makes most of it.

"[The issue is] whether these climate measures do not strengthen inequality in society. We have also called for the involvement of the wider society, participation, including the involvement of science: this has not been included. The creation of a science council, which is set up for climate issues in many countries and is followed by and chaired by the government."

Climate policy expert Linda Zuze also pointed out that points included in the Climate Law were left in the hands of politicians without the supervision of independent experts.

Zuze also pointed out that climate change is largely created by a small part of society, but it affects us all, so the law should share responsibility more fairly.

Finally, experts have indicated the short deadline within which the Ministry calls for an opinion on the draft law.

Kristīne Zonberga, director of the Latvian Civic Alliance, expressed concern about whether the public consultation was simply a formal one.

"It is important that its public involvement is not only formally so when a press release or draft law has been published in the Law Portal, but the Ministry also addresses the public, particularly those target groups whose views would be particularly important to clarify. At the same time, public participation should also be used as a way to inform the public about possible changes," Zonbergs said.

The Ministry will wait for public opinions until September 18.

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