An Analysis on International Climate Law: Past, Present, and Future

By: Cecily Widmann

The world is currently fighting an under-the-radar war in mainstream media. The international community is focused on a global pandemic, a problem at the forefront of national and foreign affairs; however, climate change is continuing to progress. The world just lost one year of progression towards the “mitigation and adaptation” to climate change (Wallace-Wells, 2019). This issue needs to be fully addressed as quickly as the international community can accomplish, as climate change is one of the most critical issues (Wallace-Wells, 2019).

The slow evolution of cooperation in the international community for climate change legislation emphasizes the current challenges to advancing climate change law. The first introduction of climate law was in 1972 with the passing of the Stockholm Declaration; this created an effective fundamental framework for future legislation and stressed the importance of interstate cooperation. The success in the Stockholm Declaration allowed for the Montreal Protocol in 1987 to achieve declared goals and become widely accepted in the international community. The accomplishments in the cooperation in the international community outside of international institutions allowed for the United Nations to incorporate a framework in 1992 to limit greenhouse emission with state members (UN, 1992, pp. 129-136). The Rio Declaration grew from the framework presented in the UN outline and instead focused on specific policies on international climate change legislation (Rio Declaration, 1992, p. 1). This set the stage for the Paris Agreement which addresses global emissions through garnering support from the previous measures.

The passage of climate change legislation has been a slow process, but the evolution in the last 50 years has shown it is integral to have multinational agreements with punitive measures for all nation-state members. Treaties allow for consistent standards to be implemented that hold nation-states accountable for their actions. These agreements can also have built-in mechanisms to help members progress towards their goals through aid. The focus of climate change legislation in the past has focused on the impact on the environment, but in the future, it needs to address other issues that arise, including human rights of the refugees and measures to force industries to comply with international law.

What Currently Exists as Part of the International Climate Framework?

International climate law does not have a long history, as the first significant piece of legislation for the “preservation and enhancement of the human environment” was the Stockholm Declaration in 1972, just 50 years ago. The creation of the Declaration serves as a statement of ideals and a framework for future legislation to build more concrete plans. A major contribution was Principle 21. It was explicit on the rights of states’ sovereignty in their own territory, yet it stressed the importance of states influencing each other to limit pollution (Stockholm Declaration, 1972). The Stockholm Declaration of 1972 started the discussion between industrialized and developing countries on the topic of pollution and its connection to economic growth and the well-being of all people (UN, 1972). The Declaration covered everything from living conditions to nuclear weapons in 26 principles (Stockholm Declaration, 1972). There was no control method, calculation, or enforcement, but this was the start of a new category of international agreements. The ideas associated with the green environment in the public sphere did not develop at this time; the issue compounded with the lack of technology geared towards improving sustainability and the environment. Still, the Stockholm Declaration was the first step towards healing the damage done to the planet since the start of the industrial revolution.

More ambitious international legislation geared towards the ozone layer and remediating issues facing it, came forward following the Stockholm Declaration in the form of the Montreal Protocol (Montreal Protocol, 1987). The goal of the Protocol was to create a list of substances that deplete the ozone layer. To remediate the issues, these substances had their production cut, and bans implemented. This was accompanied with goals that were set by comprehensive plans and providing demonstrable results (Montreal Protocol, 1987). The Montreal Protocol’s specific goal allowed it to gain universal support from the world (OEQC, 2021). This support ensured it would succeed in its goal. The Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion showed that the ozone layer is healing and is expected to be back to 1980 values by the 2060s (Scientific Assessment Confirms Start of Recovery of Ozone Layer, 2019).

The Montreal Protocol was a successful piece of climate legislation because the agreement achieved its declared goals, and because of the support it garnered through compliance procedures and flexibility of the document itself (Rae & Gabriel, 2021). Sectors most affected by the reduction of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) received support first. This document clearly stated what chemicals were deemed applicable, so countries could prioritize and allow industries to prepare (Montreal Protocol, 1987). The Montreal Protocol was not a hard stop ban on all ODS; rather, it gradually stopped all production, trade, and consumption of these substances (Montreal Protocol, 1987). This allowed industries to invent and progress away from ODS, which was old technology, to newer technology that was more energy-efficient and better for the environment as a whole.

Funding for the Montreal Protocol parties came from the Multilateral Fund, created in 1991, which allowed underdeveloped states to rely less on ODS from funding from industrialized states that advocated for the change (Multilateral Fund, 2019). To be eligible for the Fund, the party in question had to fall under Article Five of the Montreal Protocol, which provides that a “developing country…whose annual calculated level of consumption of the controlled substances is less than 0.3 kilograms per capita on the date of the entry into force of the Protocol.” (Montreal Protocol, 1987). Nevertheless, this was not the only use for the Multilateral Fund. It could also be used on a short-term basis for other parties that are not included under Article five for issues of non-compliance.

Under the Montreal Protocol, there was flexibility built within the agreement on ODSs which allowed for adjustments when helping nations in non-compliance (Montreal Protocol, 1987). When the Montreal Protocol was being negotiated, the science behind ODS and its effect on the ozone layer was not definite. Flexibility was built into the Protocol through assessments and amendments (Montreal Protocol, 1987). The parties in the Protocol would meet regularly to discuss how the current controls were working and if more substances were discovered to be ODS. In 1987, more substances had to be added because of developments in science that led to new discoveries. Scientists were included in the negotiation proceedings, which gave trust and credibility to the work politicians accomplished. This led to the procedure for parties in non-compliance to bring the party back into compliance. The negotiators rightly assumed that putting tariffs or bans on countries in non-compliance often did more harm than good. These procedures also allowed more nations to sign onto the agreement in the first place. The non-compliance procedure worked brilliantly; all 142 developing countries were able to meet the 2010 deadline for total phase-out of CFCs, halons, and other ODS. The flexibility and non-punitive procedures built into the Montreal Protocol made it a successful piece of international environmental legislation (Rae & Gabriel, 2021).

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) of 1992 was created to control greenhouse gas emissions to allow the planet to adjust to the changes occurring in the environment (UN, 1992, pp. 129-138). The role of this was to ensure that food production and economic growth were not threatened (UN, 1992, pp. 129-138). The lofty goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), however, was not backed up in any significant way in its language. There were no defined goals for countries who joined the Convention to follow (UN, 1992, pp. 129-138). The minimum requirement for all parties was to have actively taken into account GHG emissions and report on their emissions periodically. Parties were to push and aid industry in the direction of reducing emissions; however, the concrete plans were left up to individual states to decide based on their needs. There was a financial section to aid developing countries towards their goals that industrialized countries pay into (UN, 1992, pp. 129-138). There was no plan for, or mention of, a compliance procedure as part of the UNFCCC. This may be because the UNFCCC was meant to be a framework for other legislation that would have compliance measures, or because of its broad nature with no concrete criteria. There was nothing to comply with unless a party was not reporting on its emissions.

The framework created under the UNFCCC helped the Rio Declaration specify the principles that need to be worked into climate change policy (Rio Declaration, 1992, p. 1). This document was a report generated from the United Nations (UN) Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. The Rio Declaration focused on the human element, stating that “Human beings are at the center of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.” (Rio Declaration, 1992). There were a couple of principles within the Rio Declaration that influenced international environmental law that followed (International Environmental Law, 2020). The Precautionary Principle, Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration, states, “In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by states according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation” (1992, p. 3). This language was unambiguous; it gave states a clear line to follow that goes along with ideas created in the Montreal Protocol. The science confirming the damage to the environment does not need to be complete for a state to engage in practices that are better for the planet. Verified scientific reasoning was not integral for a state to protect the environment.

Another important principle in the Rio Declaration was Principle 10, which focused on the freedom of information (Rio Declaration, 1992, p. 2). If humans are responsible for, and the center of, concern for sustainable development, as stated previously, then Principle 10 articulates that, “Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens.” (Rio Declaration, 1992, p. 2). States were obligated to give individuals access to information held by public authorities on the national level, including concerns specific to communities like hazardous materials (Rio Declaration, 1992, p. 2). Principle 10 also specified that communities be allowed to participate in decision-making processes (Rio Declaration, 1992, p. 2). By including people in addressing environmental problems faced in their communities, it would build a sense of pride in their sustainability efforts.

The Rio Declaration, as well as the UNFCCC, covered the importance of national interests concerning issues of state sovereignty (UN, 1992, p. 3). Sovereignty is one of the most important aspects of international law. It is difficult within multilateral agreements to prevent states from acting in their own self-interests, especially in the case of non-compliance. Multilateral agreements rarely have punitive measures for non-compliance or have none at all. Principle 2 of the Rio Declaration stated specifically the issue of sovereignty:

States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental and developmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (UN, 1992, p. 1).

The international legal precedent is that states retain sovereignty while also respecting other states’ sovereignty. Principle 21 in the Stockholm Declaration was reiterated in the Rio Declaration of 1992 along with the Principle of Cooperation, of which stated the importance of states working together to solve collective problems, under the idea that climate change never affects solely one state (UN, 1972).

Six years before the Rio Declaration came into effect in 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in present-day Ukraine exploded resulting in the worst nuclear disaster in history, worsened by an inefficient addressment of the situation by the international community. The Soviet Union, which controlled Ukraine at the time, understated the scale of the catastrophe, leading the world to believe that it was nowhere near as bad as it was. The cloud of radiation from Chernobyl reached as far as the western coast of Spain, over 2,700 miles away (Moon, 2016). The Soviets were lax with reporting the full scale of the tragedy to other countries even after winds had moved the radiation across international borders. This example is why Principle 2 was critical because states have to be held accountable for their actions. Nationally, states can be held accountable by their citizens and the press. Internationally, however, the primary way for states to be held responsible is through the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ). Even further in holding states accountable, states must be a party to the treaty and ratify it in their own legal system for it to be binding and thus liable for penalties or charges through the document’s own disagreement management plan, or the ICJ. Many heavily structured, strong agreements never get ratified. In particular, the United States (US) never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the next stage of international environmental legislation.

Just before the turn of the century, the Kyoto Protocol came into the international scene, it focused primarily on reducing GHGs (Kyoto Protocol, 1997, p. 162). Though the Kyoto Protocol was not successful in reducing GHG globally, it was the first international agreement to have binding obligations for industrialized countries (Kyoto Protocol, 1997, p. 18). The compliance system was comprehensive with two branches: a facilitative branch and an enforcement branch (UNFCCC, n.d.). The facilitative branch worked very similarly to the Montreal Protocol’s compliance procedure, it gave aid and advice to parties in order to keep them in compliance (UNFCCC, n.d.). The revolutionary piece was the enforcement branch, which dealt with different types of non-compliance in different ways.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, if a party exceeds the quantity of emissions allowed in a given period, the enforcement branch would declare the party in non-compliance, and penalties would be imposed on the culprit (UNFCCC, 2021). The party’s penalty was to make up the difference in the next period, on top of deducting an additional 30 percent of its total emissions allotment for that period. These codified punitive procedures allow the Kyoto Protocol to be much firmer than international legislation in the past. The consequences for the global environment in not following the directives, with no penalties to prevent further action, would likely be catastrophic in the long run. The Kyoto Protocol was not a total success, as the most important major polluters, the US and China, did not ratify it, yet the Protocol paved the way for the next iteration of climate change legislation.

Following the Kyoto Protocol was the Paris Agreement of 2015, it brought the international community together to address climate change through a global emissions reduction “economy,” and garnered more support than previous measures. Globally, 191 countries ratified the Paris Agreement supporting the goal of “well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.” (UNFCCC, 2016; Paris Agreement, 2015). It also implied a shift away from fossil fuels as Parties agreed to reach “global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.” (Paris Agreement, 2015, p. 17). The Agreement focused on nationally determined contributions (NDCs) paired with a “global stock take” to take place starting in 2030 and every five years after (Paris Agreement, 2015, p. 18). The NDC allowed the state to determine what the nations could achieve in a given timeframe. The global stock take, in theory, takes the multitude of reports that parties have to make about their progress and compiles them in order to gauge how each state is doing in accordance with its goal. The review will also determine where the world is in the global struggle towards net zero emissions by 2050, allowing parties to have transparency with the progress of the agreement.

There have been a few major breakthroughs in climate legislation with the Paris Agreement, such as the differentiation between developing and developed or industrialized states, along with new measures for human rights. In the Montreal and UNFCCC agreements, an annex addressed these issues; the Paris Agreement, however, denoted these differences of development with the phrase “in light of different national circumstances.” (Paris Agreement, 2015, p. 3). The Agreement has a framework for differentiation built into mitigation, financial commitments, and transparency. The central theme of the document was for states to do what they can in their specific situation.

The other breakthrough of the Paris Agreement was an explicit reference to human rights and their potentially volatile relationship to remediating the climate change crisis (Asselt, Kulovesi, & Mehling, 2018, pp. 173-183). In the Agreement, human rights are explicitly acknowledged through adding that considerations need to be taken when acting against climate change (Paris Agreement, 2015, p. 1). The significance of human rights movement into environmental and climate law will depend on what is done in deference to the language (Duyck, Lennon, Obergassel, & Savaresi, 2018, pp. 173-183). Since there are no central ideals parties must follow, they create NDCs. Individual states have to make sure they take human rights into account in their NDCs, which may not happen.

While the Paris Agreement is an improvement from the climate change documents before it, there are still many improvements which need to be addressed including the ambition gap. Since the Agreement was based so heavily on NDCs, the overall goal of global action was to keep global warming below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. The current commitments put the estimated increase in global temperatures between 2.5 and 3.5 °C (International Environmental Law, n.d.). States are only required to do what they are able, in the direction of keeping below 2 °C but they are not required to pick up the pace in order to meet the end goal. Even so, NDCs are meant to be reviewed every five years starting in 2020, and new commitments will be built on the old, and then progress may be visible.

Many other implementation-based issues have not been settled within the Paris Agreement yet, this hinders the implementation of its goals. The Work Programme under the Paris Agreement (PAWP), also known as the Paris Rulebook, established more detailed guidelines while actively working towards the overarching goal of the Agreement (Matters Relating to the Implementation of the Paris Agreement, 2017, pp. 1-3). Negotiators, rightfully so, did not want this important milestone in international climate law never to be finished or never ratified due to small details that were not given time to be worked out (Asselt, Kulovesi, &mehling, 2018). The adoption of the Paris Rulebook by the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement was in December 2018 at Katowice, Poland (Paris Agreement, 2015). Since then, many questions have not been fully answered as part of the framework, but it continues to improve and become more concrete. There will not be a complete analysis of how the Paris Agreement is working because elements of the Agreement have not even occurred yet. The final judgment will be reserved for if and when the Paris Rulebook is complete, and all aspects to the Agreement have occurred at least once.

The most recent international cooperation agreement for climate change was enacted in 2021 with the Glasgow Climate Change Conference focused on greenhouse gasses. Glasgow, however, was not effective in climate change legislation because the agreed-upon emissions reductions and rhetoric included in the agreements was not strong enough to reverse or stop damage to the environment (Kottasova & Devan, 2021). Developing nation-states were not given support by wealthier states and minimal times a consensus was reached (Kottasova & Devan, 2021). This international agreement is very recent, and the outcomes achieved have not yet been implemented to see if there was a benefit to the legislation agreed upon.

Issues with the Current Legislation

Climate Law has a gaping hole when it comes to individuals affected by climate change, as many refugees and migrants are not covered under any legal international frameworks (Francis, 2019, pp. 123-134). The main piece of legislation associated with the rights of refugees was the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The Convention was particular when it referred to the circumstances in which a refugee has protected status. A refugee is someone who will not return to their country of origin because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted for their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion (Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951). There are no apparent provisions for refugees created by a natural disaster of any kind (Jaswel & Jolly, 2013, pp. 45-58).Only recently has any headway been made in the international sphere. In 2010, human mobility was recognized within the global climate debate under the UNFCCC. The Paris Agreement pushed the issue further in 2015 with the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts, which identified, and addressed displacement related to climate change (UN, 2015). The latest initiative came in 2018 with the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration; it recognized climate change as a threat to human life and rights (Global Compact for Migration, 2018, p. 9).

While human rights are integral within international climate change agreements, the creation of human rights law itself has been a slow process. The UN Charter mandated the UN Economic and Social Council to set up the Commission on Human Rights, which formed the charter-based system for human rights (UN, 1945). Unfortunately, the Commission was made up of 54 governmental representatives, rather than independent experts. As such, there was no requirement for a state to have an excellent human rights track record in order to serve, leading to some of the worst offenders being on the Commission (International Human Rights Law, n.d.). Currently, the Human Rights Council, a permanent body which meets regularly, is the acting institution unlike previously the Human Rights Commission, which only met for politically charged temporary sessions (International Human Rights Law, n.d.). Beginning in 2006 under the recommendation of Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and acting as a subsidiary of the General Assembly, the Council is one of the most important bodies in the UN today (UN, 2005). The 47 members of the Council are elected via an absolute majority with a limit of 2 consecutive three-year terms. The last international framework for human rights is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; it was written in 1948 as a document that has no legal binding power of its own. However, it is the standard that states must live up to today (UN, 1948). Refugees adversely affected by climate change are not covered under these measures, which demonstrates a gap in recognition in international institutions.

The first legal international document on human rights was in 1966, it focused on the protection of societal rights which built off the previous frameworks. Adopted in 1966, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) sought to establish and protect the personal and societal rights of all humans. Though drafted at the same time, the two pieces of legislation could not be more different in execution. The ICCPR is focused on the rights of freedom of speech, religion, and voting, of which are often specified by a national Bill of Rights (UN, 1966, p. 171). This document was very specific in its goals and measures of control, and though technically not legally binding, the ICCPR has much firmer language. There was also an agreement by some countries that the Human Rights Committee, under the ICCPR, had the authority to investigate human rights violations by states. The ICESCR focused on socio-economic rights including access to food, education, health and shelter, the basic needs for humans to survive and live decent lives (UN, 1966, p. 3). The ICESCR was a lot less structured in its language, however, because when negotiating this treaty, countries could not compromise on hard-hitting ideals like they could with the ICCPR. This made the ICESCR almost ineffective within binding international legislation. Together, the ICCPR and the ICESCR made up what is commonly known as the International Bill of Human Rights; however, these documents lack language to address social issues accompanied by climate change effects.

The treaty-based system is currently in place, with its beginnings emerged in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. There have been eight other treaties adopted, under the light of the UN, on the human rights of marginalized and oppressed groups, all maintaining monitoring bodies. These treaties include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) adopted in 1979; the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984); the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989); the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990); and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006). There is no overarching treaty for human rights because they are legally binding documents. This inhibits nations from compromising on specific issues related to human rights or refugees created from climate change concerns.

Through the treaties on human rights, they emphasize that there are no explicit binding parts of climate change legislation that states have obligations to adhere to (Mboya, 2018, p. 51-74). Particularly, there is no set binding and punitive agenda for non-political human rights when states are left to check their human rights plans to ensure that they are working towards human rights goals. Climate change would fall under the umbrella of the ICESCR since the significant concerns are with economic and social rights. Currently, no forum exists for complaints against states that violate these guidelines. This is significant, as proposed developmental programs to help combat climate change could harm the lives of those more directly connected to the program, while aiding citizens worldwide. In Honduras, for example, the Bajo Aguán project, a private, corporate-run operation, aims to recover biogas from a palm oil mill. The mill is located in the middle of a violent dispute that has killed over 100 farmers (Lang, 2015). Despite the deaths and other reported human rights violations, the (CDM) Board registered the project, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank, funded it (Lang, 2015). The CDM Board noted the violations were deplorable, but their mandate was GHG emissions, not human rights violations; therefore, it was not under their purview (Lang, 2015).

Currently, the international measures in place allow for corporations to undermine climate change legislation because they do not force industries to comply. The industries not in compliance are primarily the fossil fuel, oil, and gas industries, which are significant industries with plentiful lobbyists in both national and international settings. They are the leading industries that directly affect GHG emissions (Bonds, 2016, pp. 3-24). There is an abundance of legislation that indirectly regulates these markets; the legislation, however, is not effectively addressing the noncompliance issues. For decades, fossil fuel companies have worked under the same business model that they first created (Bonds, 2016, pp. 3-24). This model is the process of unrestrained or lightly restrained extraction and combustion of fossil fuels; it releases an unpredictable amount of GHG emissions (Bonds, 2016, pp. 3-24). To approach the issue of climate change effectively, the emissions generated by these critical industries–fossil fuel, oil, and gas industries–must be addressed.

Unfortunately, addressing these industries is a complicated process, as the fossil fuel industry is closely tied to national and international interests. Corporate gas companies often work with countries that have large fossil fuel reserves, like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran (Bonds, 2016). In 2011, analysts at Carbon Tracker calculated the carbon equivalents for oil, gas, and coal reserves held by the 200 largest publicly-traded fossil fuel companies. The report found that these companies held five times more carbon in their reserves than what could be emitted without breaking the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping global warming below 2°C (Leaton, 2011). This makes at least 80% of these reserves unburnable carbon because the oil was extracted using either unrestrained or lightly restrained method to obtain the oil (Bonds, 2016, pp. 3-24).

Corporations are unmotivated to comply with international mandates because of the economic consequences; they could lose government subsidies for the oil industry. The unburnable carbon reserve poses a direct threat to the environment, and if kept under heavy regulation to combat climate change, then one day it could lead to an economic crisis in the fossil fuel industry. Similar to the housing bubble in the 2008 United States market crash, a “carbon bubble” is forming (Bonds, 2016). The value given to fossil fuel companies is directly linked to reported fuel reserves, most of which have to stay in the ground to comply with international mandates. This means that the value afforded to the reserves is far less than the market currently estimates (Bonds, 2016, p. 24).  In 2013, the global amount spent on subsidizing new discoveries of oil, gas, and coal reserves was $88 billion, indicating that government resources are still helping further undermine international climate change measures (Bast, Makhijani, Pickard, & Shelagh, 2014). These subsidies make corporations unmotivated to comply or change business methods because governments continue to financially support them. International law regarding climate change may become more restrictive, so governments and corporations must begin preparation to deal with these economic challenges.


Climate change legislation has evolved dramatically throughout the past 50 years, from the Stockholm Declaration to the Glasgow Climate Change Climate Conference, the international community has learned a lot about what works and what does not. The creation of NDCs in order to produce the most compliance and flexibility among states has become a widely implemented measure. However, the international community needs to have consistent standards for all members and NDCs do not cover all issues. The current measures states are taking is not equivalent to the measures needed to achieve climate goals. Agreements that have a non-punitive compliance mechanism allow states to continue to progress towards their goal with aid, garnering better support for measures combating climate change. Compliance mechanisms do not allow for secondary effects to be properly addressed. As a result, human rights violations, refugees, and the economic policy for the fossil fuel industry are not acknowledged.

There is still much that must be done in order for comprehensive and complete international agreements on climate change to be enacted. Climate change needs to be prioritized for individual states. Countries need to work harder towards their goals for climate change reduction, especially in the United States. The United States is one of the highest polluters in the world, and has avoided many international conventions that would regulate and mitigate climate change in the country. Until all nations make climate change a priority, nothing will change, nothing will improve.


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