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Climate Law: International and European Perspectives Lecture held successfully

On the afternoon of April 8, the second phase of the online lecture series of ‘Lujia Law Global Cloud Classroom’ and the 158th Lecture of Lujia Lecture Theatre of Environmental Law of LUOJIA Institute of Environmental Law of Wuhan University, which is entitled ‘Climate Law: International and European Perspectives’, was held online through zoom platform. International and European Perspectives’ was held online through zoom platform. Professor Luc Lavrysen, Dean of the Constitutional Court of Belgium and Research Centre for Environmental and Energy Law of Ghent University, was invited to give the lecture, which was moderated by Professor Ignacio de la Rasilla, Han Depui Chair Professor of Wuhan University and Chief Expert of Wuhan University Institute of International Rule of Law (WUIIR), a national high-end think tank, and chaired by Professor Ignacio de la Rasilla, Director of the Institute of Environmental Law, Director of the International Exchange Centre, Wuhan University. Professor Qin Tianbao, Director of the Institute of Environmental Law and Head of the Department of International Exchange of Wuhan University, and Associate Professor Liu Bingyu of the School of International Law of the China University of Political Science and Law talked with the lecture. Experts and scholars from the Law School of Wuhan University and universities at home and abroad, as well as teachers and students, attended the event.

At the beginning of the lecture, Professor Ignacio de la Rasilla welcomed and thanked the keynote speaker, Professor Luc Lavrysen, and the discussants, Professor Qin Tianbao and Associate Professor Liu Bingyu, for attending the lecture. He mentioned that climate change is a common challenge faced by all mankind, and Professor Luc Lavrysen is a famous international law expert who will share his views on the topic from international and European perspectives; Professor Qin Tianbao is a well-known scholar in China's environmental law community and co-editor-in-chief of the China Journal of Environmental Law, and Associate Professor Liu Binyu is an international law scholar who has long been concerned with the climate issue, and will express his views on climate change issues from China's perspectives in the talk session. He will express his views on climate change from China's perspective in the talk session.

Luc Lavrysen said that the Institute of Environmental Law of Wuhan University (IELWU) is an internationally renowned research institute of environmental law, and he expressed his sincere gratitude to IELWU and Wuhan University School of Law for the invitation to give this lecture. Combining theory and practice, he shared his views on ‘Climate Law: International and European Perspectives’ from three perspectives: the urgency of the climate issue, the response of international law to the climate issue, and the process of the EU climate legislation and the latest developments.

Firstly, Luc Lavrysen elaborated on the urgency of the climate issue. He stated that anthropogenic impacts have caused widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, oceans, cryosphere and biosphere, which have triggered numerous extreme weather events. This has had wide-ranging and adverse impacts on nature and humans, with associated loss and damage. Vulnerable communities that have historically contributed the least to current climate change are being disproportionately affected. The impacts of climate change on humans and natural ecosystems are more widespread and severe than expected, with multiple future climate change risks trending towards complexity. However, current global emissions reductions are far from adequate.

He then summarised the response of international law to the issue of climate change. He said that the Paris Agreement provided overarching guidance to the international community in addressing climate change through provisions on emission reduction commitments, transparency and global stocktaking, climate change adaptation, and support for climate action in developing countries. However, the Emissions Gap Report 2023 released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that the world's temperature will far exceed the Paris Agreement targets unless countries honour their commitments. The Synthesis Report of the Sixth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2023, released by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), states that some future climate change is inevitable, but can be limited by significant, rapid and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions. In all global modelling scenarios, limiting global warming to 1.5°C or 2°C would require significant and rapid greenhouse gas emission reductions across all sectors.

Finally, he summarised the process and latest developments in EU climate law. He noted that in order to realise its contribution to the Paris Agreement targets, the European Commission presented its Green Deal in 2019, with the goal of making Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. This carbon-neutral target is formalised in the European Climate Act, which enters into force in 2021, with a specific commitment to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 55% in 2030 compared to 1990 levels. The 'Fit for 55' Green Economy Act, published by the EU's Executive Council in 2021, covers climate, carbon trading, energy, buildings, land use, transport, taxation, etc. and aims to provide a coherent and balanced framework for reaching the EU's climate targets. The ‘Repower EU’ action programme, officially published in 2022, addresses the current global energy market disruption by enhancing energy independence. In addition, the European Commission has recently proposed a target of 90 per cent emission reductions by 2040, compared to 1990 levels, in light of a less-than-optimistic assessment of the 21 member states' draft National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) that have already been submitted for 2023.

Qin Tianbao had a talk with. He thanked Luc Lavrysen for his excellent sharing and added some insights into the development of climate law from the perspective of developing countries. He pointed out that most developing countries have legislative programmes for domestic climate law. For example, China has developed a 1+N policy system. However, how to translate the continuously updated policies into legal language is the primary issue currently faced. To this end, China has initiated the drafting of a special climate law on the one hand, and promoted the transformation of climate change policies into law by setting up a special chapter on green and low-carbon development in the ecological and environmental code that is being compiled on the other. He also mentioned that the attitude of developing countries towards participation in international action on climate change is gradually changing. As the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide, China had taken practical actions at both the domestic and international levels, not only seeking a green and low-carbon transition, but also actively participating in global climate governance. In addition, he highlighted that China has only 30 years to go from peak carbon to carbon neutrality, which is a short period of time and a high target, resulting in a lot of difficulties and challenges in the process of achieving carbon neutrality. Such challenges also exist in developing countries such as India and Brazil, and in order to overcome such difficulties, technology transfer and financial transfers are particularly important. In this perspective, the EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) may pose some obstacles for developing countries to achieve the goal of carbon neutrality. Although there are many studies intending to prove the legitimacy of the CBAM, the rationality of this mechanism is still debatable in terms of international enforcement or implementation effects.

Liu Bingyu conducted the talk. She first provided a brief summary of the presentations by Professor Luc Lavrysen and Professor Qin Tianbao, noting in particular the energy, industrial and supply chain security challenges facing developing countries during the low-carbon transition. Secondly, she added a new perspective by sharing the complex relationship between climate change governance regimes and investment protection rules. She noted that green investment cooperation between the EU and China has gained increasing attention in recent years, and that one of the salient features of the reform of the sustainable investment regime is the recognition of the importance of addressing climate change. As climate change becomes a new type of investment variable, the question of how to reconcile climate governance with investment rules and how to prevent future investment constraints has become an urgent issue. She argued that both China and the EU should continue to work on creating a favourable international environment to combat the climate crisis. A favourable international environment would not only be beneficial to national climate change legislation and climate negotiations, but would also allow for the harmonisation of sustainable investment and trade with the fight against climate change.

Afterwards, teachers and students had an in-depth discussion and exchanged views on issues such as ‘EU Carbon Emission Reduction Targets’ and ‘Protection of Climate Refugees’.