The next generation of climate laws

A/Prof Anita Foerster and Adarshani Vikash
A/Prof Anita Foerster and Adarshani Vikash

Next generation of climate laws for Fiji and the Pacific Islands

In 2021, the Fiji Government brought the Climate Change Act into law - a piece of legislation that sets out a blueprint for how Fiji will respond to climate change and improve the island nation’s ability to adapt and respond to its worsening impacts.

Monash University's Associate Professor Anita Foerster is working with Fiji National University Head of Law, Adarshani Vikash, to explore how the act is being implemented in practice, and to develop research that helps to enhance its effectiveness and impact.

“Everyone's very aware that Pacific Island nations are at the forefront of climate change impacts and will bear the brunt of climate change,” A/Prof Foerster says.

“Law is a really important tool to help governments respond with a more strategic, more measured, and better resourced approach,” she says.

“We're keen to work with stakeholders in civil society, as well as key people within the Fijian government that are responsible for implementing the law, to do some research that supports and contributes to its effective implementation.”

The team plans to draw on the experiences of other countries in implementing similar laws and will consider the inputs, resources and capacities required to make them work and function in a context that is relevant to Fiji.

“For Fiji, it's really important to have that framework in place to be able to bring in international climate finance.”

“For Fiji, it's really important to have that framework in place to be able to bring in international climate finance. This law will provide the foundations and the strategic direction for where money should flow and how it should be spent,” Dr Foerster says.

Another part of the legislation which the researchers are particularly interested in, along with the Fijian Government, is addressing private sector responses to climate change.

“The Act sets up a consulting committee with the Fijian private sector and clarifies the obligations of Fijian businesses and companies to address climate change,” Dr Foerster says.

“Part of our work may well be engaging with this committee around their climate risk disclosure and reporting obligations and their climate risk management strategies.

“That's an area where the Monash Business School has particular expertise, both in the legal, and regulatory sense, but also in accounting, banking and finance.”

Active environmental law NGOs have also been engaged as part of the project including the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“We think it's really important that leading NGOs are working on the Climate Change Act and monitoring how it's being implemented and feeding into its effective implementation,” adds Dr Foerster, who wants this Act to have as much impact as possible on Fijian communities.

“In five years, I’d like to see this as a functioning law, with the first round of planning and strategy-making well and truly underway.

“A functioning and alive piece of legislation that doesn't just sit there in theory, or on the books, but is actually being implemented and making a difference.”