We have grown quite used to receiving news about bushfires and wildfires affecting various parts of the world. Time and again, we have been required to deal with pressing concerns such as wildlife extinction, severe droughts and the melting of icecaps in the Arctic.
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All of these simply point to the fact that the climate is changing, and reflect the dire need for us to collectively tackle the problem.
While climate sceptics still argue otherwise, evidence reveals that global warming is occurring at an increased rate. Changes at the grassroots level can be effective, but the significance of large-scale policy reforms to address these issues cannot be understated.
We need laws to protect our environment. The existing environment laws need to be amended to reflect modern needs, and to improve the current condition of our environment.
Most importantly, these laws also need to take potential future challenges into consideration. As the world keeps changing and progressing, the types of environmental threats may also keep changing. Our current laws need to be strengthened to address future environmental challenges as well.
The Asia-Pacific region: Environmental issues and laws
The Asia-Pacific region is the fastest developing region in the world, with multiple economic powerhouses. However, the region also deals with a unique set of environmental challenges including land degradation and air pollution.
Moreover, research states that many cities in the region are vulnerable to typhoon and flood risks. Reports from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) indicate these risks will become more severe in the future.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the UNEP and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) promote its member countries to achieve sustainability. These organisations are building resilience, and are advocates for environment protection.
However, the main issue is with environmental legislation. Specifically, within the Asia-Pacific region, enforcing and implementing laws have proved to be a challenge.
This could be attributed to reasons such as lack of resources – both financial and technological – in some countries to properly enforce policies. Moreover, corruption is rife in the region which undoubtedly stymies progress.
Corruption in the region impacts resource management, and environmental resource management remains neglected, thereby leading to slow and ineffective responses to climate change.
On the other hand, outdated laws can also pose an issue. For instance, in Australian legislation, the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) is the most salient act which provides a framework to ensure protection of our environment.
Recent reports have highlighted that the Act is inadequate and fails to achieve environmental goals. Australia’s commitments to tackle climate change have also been unambitious. We need major reforms and revised targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Where to from here?
Newer and stronger reforms that protect our wildlife, us, and our environment is the need of the hour. Older laws do not accommodate the needs of recently threatened species, meaning that laws need to be continually reviewed and amended to suit current and future needs.
The establishment of independent bodies which review governments’ policies and resource management can facilitate progress. These bodies can help governments to stay accountable, and provide increased transparency.
Interestingly, could the situation be improved if all counties within the Asia-Pacific region have a unified approach towards tackling climate change? Much like how all other matters of international relations such as security and economics are handled with diplomacy, joining hands for improving environmental legislation can prove to be fruitful.