Methodology - Legislation


This page was last updated on May 4th, 2021.
This page outlines the definitions, scope, and principles used to collect and categorise the legislation displayed in the Climate Change Laws of the World database. 
Climate Change Laws of the World also tracks climate change litigation. For details on the methodology used to collect and categorise litigation cases click here.

Scope of documents included

This database covers all UNFCCC parties (196 countries plus the European Union), as well as a number of territories that are not UN or UNFCCC such as Taiwan, Palestine and Western Sahara. 
The database focuses exclusively on climate change related laws and policies. We define climate change-related laws broadly, as legal frameworks that address policy areas directly relevant to climate change mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage or disaster risk management. More specifically, we consider legal documents that establish rules and procedures related to reducing energy demand; promoting of low carbon energy supply; restricting the development of fossil fuel based infrastructure; promoting low-carbon buildings; carbon pricing; lower industry emissions; tackling deforestation and promoting sustainable land use; other mitigation efforts; climate-related research and development; low-carbon transportation; enhancing adaptation capabilities; natural disaster risk management. In some instances, laws addressing disaster risk management and/or energy related matters may have been included in the database even where no explicit mention of climate change is made, given the close connection between these areas and climate change.  Laws aimed at enhancing other areas of environmental action or environmental protection are not included in the database unless they include provisions with directly relevant impacts on climate change action, such as a reduction in GHG emissions, significant enhancement, or protection of carbon sinks, or expressly contribute to climate adaptation and resilience.
The database includes both legislation and policy at the national and sectoral level only. At present, it excludes information about the policy response of sub-national governments. It also excludes international legislation, such as treaties. Documents submitted only to international organisations such as the UNFCCC are generally excluded unless they have been converted into specific legislation or formally adopted as executive policies. For EU member states, laws transposing EU Directives are in the process of being added to the database along with the relevant EU law since in many instances these may contain additional relevant provisions. Where possible these additional provisions have been noted in the description of the relevant law.
Documents included in the database must have full legal force, having passed through the legislature or through an executive decision-making body, and/or set out a current governmental policy objective or set of policy objectives.  To the best of our ability, we capture major amendments to legislation and update document summaries accordingly. Laws that are outdated, either because they have been repealed, replaced, or reversed are not currently included. In general precedence is given to the document with the highest possible status dealing with a given matter. In some instances, policies or regulations aimed at giving effect to legislation or regulation of a higher order (“parent legislation”), such as statutory instruments or other guidance adopted to provide detail on the implementation of an act of parliament, may be included in the database alongside their “parent legislation” where these provide a significantly more detailed picture.
In addition to tracking legislation, CCLW also contains information summarising national level climate targets. See Annex I below for more information.

Definitions and categorisation

We assign a number of codes and categories to all records in the CCLW database to enhance the usability and searchability of the data. The system of codes and categories has evolved over time to remain in step with developments in climate governance, the growth of the dataset, and the needs of our user community. Codes and categories currently in use include:
Legislation and Policy 
On addition to the database, documents are categorised as legislation or policy, in accordance with whether they are enacted by the legislative or executive branch of government. Where the same body holds both legislative and executive power, a determination of whether a document constitutes a law or policy is made based on our best understanding of the country’s legal system. 
Document types
Documents are also classified by document type. Document types are determined with reference to a non-exhaustive list of options and may be classified according to their legal status, i.e. as a Constitution or a Decree Law, or, in the case of policy documents, by their content, i.e. as a strategy, a roadmap, or a government guidance note.

Laws and policies are categorised according to the climate policy response(s) to which they are most relevant, whether mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, or disaster risk management. Where appropriate, laws may be tagged as relevant to more than one policy response.
1.     Mitigation: Mitigation laws and policies refer to a legislative or executive disposition focused on curbing a country’s greenhouse gases emissions in one sector or more. Measures can be directly related to emissions reductions, such as laws establishing a national carbon budget or cap and trade system, or indirectly related, such as laws or policies establishing relevant institutions or providing additional funding for research and development into low carbon technologies. Laws and policies addressing forests and land use are included as long as they explicitly support climate change mitigation through activities that reduce emissions and increase carbon removals. General forest management and conservation laws are not included, even if they may have implicit consequences for climate change mitigation.
2.     Adaptation:  Adaptation laws and policies are those which contain explicit provisions concerning climate change adaptation, i.e. the need for changes in the management of ecological, social or economic systems in response to the actual or expected impacts of climate change. A comprehensive review of adaptation laws and policies was conducted in 2018 and documents have been added since then in real time. It must be noted, however, that in many cases, climate change adaptation responses may be embedded in development policies, general planning policies, risk-reduction and disaster management policies, water policies, land use and forestry policies and health policies, which can make them difficult to identify.[i]
3.     Disaster Risk Management: Laws and policies governing countries’ approaches to disaster risk management (DRM) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) were first added to the database in 2019. A broad approach to assessing whether these documents fall within the scope of this study has been adopted, as laws and policies often target natural and human disasters in a holistic manner, making it harder to isolate climate-related adverse events. Nonetheless, in determining whether a disaster risk management law or policy falls within the scope of this study researchers will usually consider whether the document relates to the types of disasters that are expected to become more frequent due to climate change, such as hurricanes, typhoons, flooding, heatwaves, droughts, forest fires, or sea-level rise (this list is non-exhaustive). 
4.     Loss and Damage: For the purposes of this study, we define loss and damage related laws and policies as those that explicitly seek either to reduce the risk of climate-related loss and damage by increasing resilience or those that provide compensation or other relief measures to support victims of climate-related loss and damage. The guiding definition of loss and damage includes both economic and non-economic losses that arise due to climate impacts that are made more frequent or more severe by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Policy measures may include national climate relief funds, risk transfer mechanisms, internal relocation arrangements, mainstreaming loss and damage across government department and ministries and social protection programmes and safety nets. Loss and damage is the most recent policy response area included in the study. As such, categorisation of documents relating to loss and damage is ongoing and is not yet systematic. 
A number of laws or policies in the database have been categorised as “framework” documents. While there is no agreed definition of a “climate change framework law”, this term is applied with increasing frequency to a discrete class of laws which share some or all of the following characteristics:
1.     Set out the strategic of travel for national climate change policy;
2.     Are passed by the legislative branch of government;
3.     Contain national long-term and /or medium targets and/ or pathways for change;
4.     Set out institutional arrangements for climate governance at the national level;
5.     Are multi-sectoral in scope; and
6.     Involve mechanisms for transparency and/or accountability.[ii]
Examples range from overarching multi-sectoral regulatory instruments which serve to provide a unifying basis for climate change action within a country, such as the UK Climate Change Act, to documents with a narrower focus which nonetheless establish the governance framework for a specific aspect of climate action such as a disaster risk management law or a national low-carbon energy policy. Framework documents are tagged to indicate the policy response area(s) to which they relate, whether mitigation, adaptation or disaster risk management. 
It should be noted that the definition of framework laws and policies employed here is broader than that adopted in recent literature regarding climate change framework legislation. Data users interested in this sub-set of climate laws are advised to review the sub-set of laws tagged as frameworks and to use their discretion to determine which of these laws may be most relevant to their subject of inquiry. 
In order to facilitate a more nuanced understanding of the ways in which governments around the world seek to influence the drivers and impacts of climate change, documents in the database are assessed to determine the primary policy instruments or “tools” on which they rely. Instruments are categorised according to an adapted version of the classic Hood and Margetts NATO typology of instruments.[iii] Documents are assessed to determine the most relevant area(s) of government activity to which they relate and then tagged with the specific types of instrument they employ to achieve their stated aims and objectives. The vast majority of documents in the database will relate to more than one area of government activity and rely on multiple instruments. See Annex II below for a full list of instruments currently in use.
Each document is assessed to determine the most relevant sector or sectors to which it relates. The following sectors are currently considered: Agriculture, Transportation, Energy, Waste, Environment, Tourism, LULUCF, Industry, Residential and Commercial, Buildings, Water, Health, the Public Sector, and Other. Where a document relates to multiple sectors or appears cross-cutting in intention, we assign the labels “economy-wide” and or “cross-cutting area”. In some instances, multi-sectoral documents may also be categorised as related to Disaster Risk Management (DRM), Adaptation, or Social Development. We also consider whether laws relate primarily to urban or rural sectors of the economy and/or to coastal zones.  
Discretionary keywords may also be assigned to cases to enable data users to identify these more easily. We do not maintain a comprehensive list of keywords.

[i] Nachmany M, Byrnes R, Surminski S, 2019, National laws and policies on climate change adaptation: a global review. London: GRI Policy Brief
[ii] See further:  Nachmany M et al. 2015, “The 2015 Global Climate Legislation Study: A Review of Climate Change Legislation in 99 Countries” London: Grantham Research Institute , Nash, S. , & Steurer, R. 2019. “Taking stock of Climate Change Acts in Europe: Living policy processes or symbolic gestures?” Climate Policy 3:1, World Bank, 2020. “World Bank Reference Guide to Climate Change Framework Legislation” EFI Insight-Governance. Washington, DC: World
[iii] See Hood C and Margetts H, 2007, The Tools of Government in the Digital Age, London: Macmillan Education. Hood and Margetts four basic “resources” of government – Nodality, Authority, Treasure and Organization are loosely mapped to areas of government activity as Capacity Building (Nodality), Regulation (Authority), Incentives and Direct Investment (Treasure), and Governance and Planning (Organization). These adaptations were developed to enhance the searchability of the database and to enable observations of particular relevance to climate change practitioners.  

Data collection process

The Climate Change Laws of the World Database started life in 2010 as printed publication, comprising an overview of climate change laws and policies in just 16 countries. Since then, it has expanded to include all countries in the present scope and has moved online to enable users to access relevant information as and when it becomes available. 
Since the database has moved online, updates to the data are collected in real time from official sources such as government websites, parliamentary records and court documents. Most entries contain a link to the actual text of the law or the filing and court decision. The efforts of the CCLW team are regularly supplemented by contributions from lawyers, scholars, policymakers and other colleagues from around the world who alert us to new data as it becomes available. Please follow this link if you wish to contribute or email us at

Principles and Limitations

In general, our approach has been to be inclusive and flexible with definitions, in order to allow for the different regulatory approaches and cultures amongst 200 countries, as well as to recognise the elusive boundaries of climate change, which by its nature spans multiple sectors and issues. We have also chosen to include policy and strategy documents which do not pass stringent legal tests of being 'legally binding' as by omitting them would have not captured the country's policy response. Likewise, where climate change overlaps significantly with other issues, such as development or disaster risk management, we have attempted to include those laws and policies that will be relevant to both issues. 
We aim for the data collected through this resource to be as comprehensive and accurate as possible. However, there is no claim to have identified every relevant law or policy in the countries covered. Language limitations, levels of media coverage, and the specific expertise of our researchers and contributors may all result in information for certain countries being more comprehensive than others.
Although GRI has developed rigorous internal protocols to guide the process of data collection, the categorisation of each document has been determined by individual members of the CCLW team and has not generally been subject checks for inter-coder reliability. The records in the database have been published in a wide variety of languages, and researchers frequently use automated translation software to understand the content of these records. The determination of whether a given law is in scope, as well as its categorisation in accordance with the definitions outlined above, may therefore be open to differing interpretations. 
Users should also be aware that as our system of codes and categories evolves to better meet the needs of our user community, new codes may be assigned to records already in the database based on document summaries rather than a full review of the original documents. In some instances, this may mean that our codes and categories do not tell the full picture.
Finally, we acknowledge that our current focus on national level legislation may mean that the database does not capture the full detail of the climate change policy response in many countries, particularly those where a significant quantity of climate action is governed by decision-making at the sub-national level.
We invite users to exercise their judgment when using the data, and any data sub-sets that serve their research and policy purposes.

Annex I: Targets methodology

This Annex provides outlines the definitions, scope, and principles used to collect and categorise the targets displayed in the Climate Change Laws of the World database.

In addition to legislation and litigation, the database also tracks national climate targets, as long as these are quantifiable. For ease of comparison, the database tracks quantifiable targets identified in countries NDCs in addition to quantifiable targets which have been incorporated into domestic law and policy (see definitions above). Both mitigation and adaptation targets are included. Aspirational or non-measurable targets are not generally included. 
Upon addition to the database, targets are categorised by sector (see above). Targets are defined as “economy-wide” if they are communicated on a national level, without further detail on the specific sectors to which they apply.
Target details
For all targets, a target year and base year are included if possible. Emissions reduction targets classified according to the following target types:[i]
1.     Base year target
2.     Fixed-level target
3.     Base year intensity target
4.     Baseline scenario target
5.     Trajectory target
Data collection process
Data on targets was originally collected in 2018 following a review of the Nationally Determined Contributions(NDCs) submitted by parties to the Paris Agreement and around 1,500 climate change laws and policies then available in the CCLW database. In some instances where the text of the law was unavailable press releases or other secondary source material regarding the nature of targets set may have been consulted. This data has since been updated as new laws are added to the database, as amendments to existing laws take place, and as countries’ second round NDCs are submitted.

[i] For definitions of each target type see Fransen T, Northrop E, Mogelgaard K and Levin K (2017) Enhancing NDCs by 2020: Achieving the Goals of the Paris Agreement. Working Paper. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute. 

Annex II: List of Instruments

Capacity Building
•Knowledge generation
•Knowledge sharing & dissemination
•Education & training
•Capacity building – general

•Standards & obligations
•Building codes
•Zoning & spatial planning

•Carbon tax

Direct Investment
•Public goods
•Social safety nets
•Provision of climate finance
•Green procurement
•Early warning systems

Governance and Planning
•Creating bodies/institutions
•Designing processes
•Developing plans and strategies
•Multilevel governance responsibilities
•Climate Fund
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