Is Northern Ireland the only part of Europe without climate change legislation?

CLAIM: Northern Ireland is the only part of Europe that does not have climate change legislation.

CONCLUSION: ACCURATE WITH CONSIDERATION. The Northern Ireland Assembly has not yet passed its own legislation, unlike the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly. However, there is UK climate-related legislation that extends to Northern Ireland. Elsewhere in Europe, Azerbaijan has no national climate legislation.

Speaking as part of a panel discussion about COP26 on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme on 31 October 2021, John Barry claimed (at 47:48): “We [Northern Ireland] are the only part of Europe at this stage without climate change legislation.”

For this fact check, we considered legislation applicable to Eastern and Western Europe, using lists of countries by regional groupings at the United Nations (excluding Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, Turkey, and the USA). The result is 46 countries.

UK legislation addressing climate change

The National Archives publishes a public database of all UK legislation, since 1297, and includes legislation passed in the assemblies of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

A search for climate-related legislation reveals the UK Parliament’s Climate Change Act (2008), which applies right across the United Kingdom. Devolved administrations (like the Northern Ireland Assembly) are responsible for implementing relevant clauses.

The Scottish Parliament passed the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019, and the Welsh Assembly passed the Environment (Wales) Act 2016.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has not made laws specific to climate change, beyond amending a couple of statue regulations.

European legislation addressing climate change

Climate Change Laws of the World is a public database of national-level climate change legislation and policies globally, collated by the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics.

At the time of writing, the database suggests that Azerbaijan is the only country in Eastern or Western Europe without any climate-related national legislation in place.

In contrast, the EU has 40 laws, and the UK has 18.

Summary

According to a global database that monitors climate change legislation, the UK has 18 climate-related laws in place; and some of these laws extend across the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland.

The legislatures in Scotland and Wales have passed their own climate-related laws, while the Northern Ireland Assembly has not.

Finally, Azerbaijan belongs to the UN’s grouping of Eastern European states, and has not passed any climate-related legislation.