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Climate Change and the Law

Climate change is one of the biggest environmental challenges of our time. The climate crisis and the impacts of climate change affect small business leaders and entrepreneurs. Stakeholders in the world's largest companies must also address climate change.

This article discusses climate policy, including the legal implications of climate change policies on small businesses.

What Is Climate Change?

Climate risks have been on scientists' radar for decades. According to NASA, climate change refers to long-term changes in weather patterns on Earth.

Since the early 1990s, greenhouse gas levels in the Earth's atmosphere have risen. This traps heat and causes the Earth's average surface temperature to increase.

Carbon dioxide is Earth's most important greenhouse gas. It absorbs and radiates heat. It's necessary to keep the average global surface temperature above freezing. Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causes global temperature to rise.

When humans cause the warming, it's called global warming. Natural processes can also contribute to climate change. This is one of the factors that makes the climate-related issue so complex.

Shifting Public Opinion on Climate Change

Public opinion on the issue of climate action has evolved over the past several years. Many Americans are showing increasing concern about climate change and humans' role. Renewable energy becomes more accessible each year.

The private sector is making it easier for consumers to reduce energy consumption with:

  • Low-carbon options
  • Incentives for emissions reduction
  • Increased options for achieving energy efficiency

A majority of registered voters are in favor of specific policies that reduce carbon pollution and advance clean energy. Young people are leading the charge for action.

majority of people around the world believe that climate change is happening and that people are at least partly responsible. Most people also think they will feel the effects of climate change.

Climate Change Law and Policy

A 2018 U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report explained that time is short. Climate experts concluded that the world has until 2032 to avoid a two-degree Celsius warming. This has dire consequences, including more natural disasters, droughts, floods, and heat waves.

Not everyone accepts the conclusions made in the IPCC's report, instead choosing to ignore scientific fact. Climate change denial groups and individuals make arguments that carbon dioxide is only a trace gas in the atmosphere. They assert it can only have a small impact on the climate.

Some believe global warming has stopped recently, and others assert that global cooling is occurring. According to NASA, 97% of climate scientists believe that humans are causing global warming.

The Biden Administration on Climate Change

President Biden campaigned on a vision of tackling the climate crisis. He created the National Climate Task Force and rejoined the Paris Agreement.

The National Climate Task Force has several goals. The goals include the following:

  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least 50% below 2005 levels in 2030
  • Achieving 100% carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035
  • Achieving a net-zero emissions economy by 2050
  • Delivering 40% of the benefits from federal investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged local communities

In 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. It makes the single largest investment in climate and energy in American history, enabling America to tackle the climate crisis and achieve reduction targets. The Inflation Reduction Act also offers incentives to reduce renewable energy costs.

Climate change is a global issue that will take a joint effort to solve. The U.S., China, and India contribute the most to greenhouse gas emissions. Curbing emissions will require governments to agree to take action together.

International Climate Change Laws

According to the largest database of climate change policy, the number of global climate change laws and policies exceeds 3,000. South Korea has the most climate change laws and policies, with 23 laws, five policies, and 18 climate targets.

The Climate Change Act 2008 outlines the United Kingdom's approach to climate change. The Act requires the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases. Emissions must return to 1990 levels — net zero — by the year 2050 through binding carbon budgets. It also sets preparations for dealing with the effects of climate change.

Small Businesses Play an Important Role in Driving Climate Action

The world's largest businesses produce the most global carbon emissions. They have the biggest carbon footprint. Large corporations often have large value chains that include small firms for materials and other services.

However, every company plays a role in reaching carbon neutrality. The goal is net-zero emissions. Small business owners can take steps to reduce environmental impact, as their energy use matters.

Actions Small Businesses Can Take

Small businesses play a critical role in the economy. They are an essential part of the supply chain for larger companies and engines for job creation in communities nationwide.

Large corporations face pressure to reduce emissions. These requirements reach small businesses in their supply chain. Small companies must decarbonize, too.

Decarbonizing and cutting emissions are beneficial. It improves the supply chain, reduces carbon emissions, and prioritizes sustainability.

The SME Climate Hub is a non-profit global initiative guiding small and medium-sized businesses. It empowers them to build resilient businesses and take climate action. The SME Climate Change Hub helps businesses:

  • Improve efficiency
  • Manage business risk
  • Gain a competitive advantage
  • Enhance access to capital
  • Grow business and brand awareness

Small businesses are an integral part of local communities. When climate change impacts small businesses, the entire community feels the effects. Knowing the environmental laws that impact small businesses goes a long way.

Climate change, including extreme weather events, can disrupt small businesses. Drought, fires, and floods can place additional pressure on companies. Each business must evaluate the specific climate risks to its sector and location before planning accordingly.

Get Help With Compliance

It's prudent to get help understanding environmental laws relevant to your business. Contact a local business and commercial law attorney for help and legal advice. An experienced attorney can provide legal guidance as you make strides to combat climate change.

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