NALINI BURN and ADI TEELOCK
Members of Platform Moris Lanvironnman (PML)

What is the time span to present the Bill?

The Climate Change Bill has been on the website of the National Assembly since 16 October 2020. According to the Order Paper, it is to be presented on Tuesday 3rd November, with all three readings scheduled on the same day.

Our Comment

1.What is the reason to rush through this piece of legislation?

2.This is too short a time to deliberate. Whether in Parliament or to canvass views of civil society advocates for climate justice and business to enrich and broaden the deliberations.

3.The Bill has not been published on the website of the relevant ministry, which is meant to have a new Department with access to Climate Finance.

4.It is an opportunity missed to raise awareness about climate change and galvanise collective action and create a sense of urgency about the need to act.

5.We are left to criticise the Bill rather than collaborate on developing a good one. This criticism about its shortcomings and purpose has already come from many other NGOs.

6.It should be landmark and robust, enabling legislation and it certainly is not that, in the face of a climate emergency.

Overview of Key messages

In our view, the Climate Bill is being rushed through with little scope for deliberation, collective reflection and public participation.  “Kwi vide pou comply.”

Let us recall that Mauritius, a Small Island Developing State, was ranked 16th among the highest risk countries in the World Risk Index in 2018 (1), and first in Africa. The Index combines exposure (to climate change) and vulnerability. Vulnerability has three dimensions: susceptibility, lack of coping capacity, lack of adaptive capacities. Although our ranking has improved to 53rd place among 186 States in the World Risk Index 2020, we still lack coping and adaptative capabilities.

One would have wanted this Bill to support building adaptive capacity as well as coping capacity and to recognise the close link between disaster risk and vulnerability to climate change. It barely acknowledges risk.

However, while yet more institutional mechanisms are set up, what they will do and aim for, and how they are to be held accountable to deliver results, are very vaguely provided for in the legal framework.

It is premature, and yet overdue at the same time, is hollow, not building on past and ongoing actions. This is because it is being passed seemingly in the absence of a climate policy, strategy and action plan that it can give legal force to. It contains no policy directives and does not provide the legal framework for climate-interventions in substance. What it instructs about is who is to carry out measures, without specifying the policy choices, the measures, either regarding mitigation or adaptation and providing the legal underpinning for building capacity to do so.

It conveys the erroneous impression that our country is only now embarking on climate-change focused interventions and climate-related intervention!

•In fact, civil society and business have spent time collaborating with the Ministry of Environment during the Assises de l’Environnement to spell out what needs to be done.

•These build on decades of work, projects and initiatives and their achievements and lessons learned.

•Many projects are ongoing and overlapping and their products and outcomes have not been taken into account in crafting this hollow piece of legislation.

The Bill is poor in ambition and bite. It does not reflect much national political will and purpose.

•It does not have clear objectives, no time-bound targets and enforceable measures to effect transformation towards resilience. This is unlike Climate Change legislation elsewhere. They combine concrete, measurable purpose and the duties of the relevant authorities to achieve the purpose.

•It is focused on collecting and reporting on data.

– But the bill does not provide the legal framework for the data to be explicitly used to drive policy, for policy to be evidence-based, set and rank priorities, identify and monitor measures to achieve and report on targets.

•It seems to be also focused on being able to access different climate finance mechanisms and instruments.

– While they do enlarge the resources of the relevant ministries, the Bill does not stipulate that the finance be most effectively targeted and used.

•On the issue of climate finance, it has to be underscored that most of the past and ongoing initiatives derive from donor financing, not from the Government of Mauritius’s commitment of national budgetary resources.

•This reflects poorly on the policy priorities regarding environmental matters. Attention is only prodded when official development assistance funds are available to mobilise.

The Bill does not seem to be an integrative piece of legislation specifically for cross-cutting climate change. It seems to be a hybrid.

•It adds on to the piecemeal patchwork. It makes – deletes, amends – other pieces of climate-relevant legislation (the Environmental Protection Act of 2002), but not all (in particular the little used National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2016), adding to a confusing picture.

This is despite its ambition to go for “greener growth” which is wide-ranging in scope and impact.

But without providing a legal framework for how to achieve this and no clue about how to reverse a single-minded pursuit of economic growth which degrades the environment:

•It does nothing to prevent a Minister of Environment from suspending sections of his/her own legislation, as we have seen in the case of delisting the Metro Express Limited as mass transit so that it will not have to obtain an Environment Impact Assessment License.

The Bill risks creating more silos in the executive arm of government.  What it does provide for is the institutional mechanisms to implement, “the how and by whom”, without the “what” being defined. Process versus substance.

• These mechanisms go against the grain of mainstreaming climate change across all spheres of government, business and in wider social organisation.

•They risk being another silo which can frustrate general ownership of building resilience in the face of climate change.

– Parts II, III, IV, even part of V of the Bill dwell on institutional mechanisms, as well as the schedules.

It gives too much power and discretion to a minister and/or head of Department to decide or not to act on key climate change measures, as whatever that person, thinks fit.

•These regulatory measures are limited in scope and purpose.

•They are focused mainly on complying with reporting to the international bodies mentioned, without much legal basis for complying with adaptation and mitigation actions, and being accountable for them.

There is no strong legal basis for being accountable for taking harmful actions and for not taking important “do no harm” actions. 

•There is little regarding enforcement and implementation.  The permissive business facilitation and business-driven organisation of land and ecosystem services continues (through the EIA business enterprise-driven mechanism).

While fairly recent global reviews of climate change legislation conclude that the emphasis should be on strengthening of and implementation of existing legislation to achieve results, rather than create new ones (2).

Read the full text here:

Comments on Climate Bill No. XIV of 2020

1.https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/WorldRiskReport-2018.pdf.

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/worldriskreport-2020-focus-forced-displacement-and-migration
The higher the rank, the higher the risks.

2.International Parliamentary Union (2017) Global Trends in climate change legislation and litigation, 2017 Update http://archive.ipu.org/pdf/publications/global.pdf