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Immediate need for climate change laws in the country, says QF environmental law expert

Dr. Damilola S. Olawuyi, energy and environmental law professor at HBKU, notes that addressing the urgency of the climate crisis will require clear and comprehensive laws.

The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) uses the words “unequivocal” and “very likely” when reporting the role of human activity in exacerbating climate change.

“When speaking of human activity, what the report is referring to is not so much the actions of individuals but sets of individuals in corporations that are at decision making levels,” said Dr. Damilola S. Olawuyi, Associate Dean for Research, College of Law at Qatar Foundation’s (QF’s) Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), and the author of Climate Change Law and Policy in the Middle East and North Africa Region.

According to Dr. Olawuyi, while corporations are now well aware of the looming climate change emergency, what is still missing are actions that reflect the urgency of the situation. Unfortunately, this will remain the case, until strict climate laws are enacted, and heavy penalties imposed on those that don’t comply.

“It is naïve to expect corporations to take actions on their own. The simple reason for that is being environmentally conscious comes at an economic cost”

Dr. Damilola S. Olawuyi

“It is naïve to expect corporations to take actions on their own. The simple reason for that is being environmentally conscious comes at an economic cost which is not something most corporations will subject themselves to out of their own goodwill.”

According to Dr. Olawuyi, the only way to get corporations to act is through stringent regulations and laws specific to climate change because law is what mandates action.

While Qatar does have environmental laws such as the Environmental Protection Law No. (30) of 2002, and its Executive Regulation No. 4 of 2005 that limit air pollution, what it doesn’t yet have – and needs as early as possible – are laws specific to climate change, according to Dr. Olawuyi. For example, a law that states the exact limit on the amount of short-lived climate pollutants and other green house gasses (GHG) that any corporation can emit.

“Clear and comprehensive climate change laws will send corporations a crystal clear message on the need to mainstream climate change into investment analysis, procurement, as well as disaster and emergency response planning.

“They will place much needed responsibility on corporations to integrate climate change due diligence into their business operations, decision making and planning, and compel them to address all sources of GHG emissions across their entire business value chain,” said Dr. Olawuyi.

In addition to laws specifying GHG emission limits, there is also the need for a law on renewable energy that requires all corporations to include a specified percentage of renewable energy sources in their operations. This will potentially have economic benefit too by attracting foreign investments in renewable energy development projects in Qatar.

An example of other innovative measures that can be introduced for the industrial sector include approaches like emission trading – a market-based approach to reducing pollution.

In an emissions trading system, sometimes also referred to as “cap and trade”, the government sets an overall limit on emissions, and issues a set number of permits to companies, these permits comprise a cap on allowed carbon dioxide emissions.

Dr. Olawuyi explained: “Companies can either choose to limit their emissions to the exact amount that the permit allows; or to emit less than its permits and sell the excess permits to other companies; or to buy permits from other companies if they emit more than the set limit.”

Essentially, the buyer pays a charge for polluting, while the seller gets a reward for having reduced emissions. Cap and trade not only sets a limit on emissions, the strict caps means those that want to keep up their industrial activity to current levels will gradually invest in cleaner alternatives.

“Carbon taxation is another tool that could serve as a real disincentive to GHG emissions while also raising additional revenue for government to finance climate change mitigation and adaptation projects and green technologies.”

Citing the example of Norway, an oil and gas producing country that is making progress in accelerating climate efforts, Dr. Olawuyi stated that the enactment of Norway’s Climate Change Act in 2017 provided great clarity on measures and steps that stakeholders must take to support the country’s 2030 and 2050 emissions reductions targets.

“The MENA region needs an early mover and I think Qatar is well positioned to be exactly that. Qatar has always punched above its weight, whether it’s in sports, infrastructure development or international relations and I hope that we will also see it become the regional leader and pioneer in efforts to address climate change and advance renewable energy technologies,” said Dr. Olawuyi.