The Art of not wasting a crisis: lessons for Climate Change Law

by Anna Martinez

In challenging times, the accepted realities must be questioned. In the context of International Climate Change Law, rapid answers are needed. The solution can at times, be found outside the traditional scope.

For tackling both crises, coronavirus and climate change, science is at the forefront. The former rapidly brought about the value of scientific researchers, which quickly determined the integrity of States in responding to such advice given. The necessary incentive required to recuperate from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated economic repercussions, should be directed into building a decarbonized and sustainable society.

This involves recalibrating our global economic pathways, to be aligned with the Paris Agreement provisions, since, as the Stern Review highlights, ‘Climate Change is the world’s greatest market failure’. The two crises threaten the economy, and so, not ensuring their effective management will undeniably cause irreversible damages to our planet and change our lifestyles.

Just like coronavirus, environmental damage does not respect borders. The way we respond to these has parallels, and meaningful international cooperation is therefore fundamental. The reasonable postponement of this year’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP) 26 in Glasgow, together with previous lack of prioritizations within other climate negotiations such as in COP 25 in Madrid, has resulted in little progress for International Climate Change Law.

This is causing further fragmentation of carbon markets due to the unresolved financial pledges, which are labelled as critical to solve this climate change ‘tragedy of the commons’. Answers point to the ‘Article 6 Rulebook’ which is expected to clarify how financial mechanisms will operate, and the utmost long-awaited outcome from COPs, which we can hope to be constructed in the next Summit.

Nevertheless, the pandemic has led State officials to formulating economy recovery plans which focus on ‘green’ policies. These envision driving verified environmentally friendly innovations, with the turn away from stranded asset investments in fossil fuels to growth in environmental, social, and governance employment sectors. In turn, this will aid the stir away from the ‘business as usual’ routines post-pandemic. It makes economic sense.

Although we are still learning from the management of coronavirus, we have solidified one lesson. With bold responses, we can competently address a global challenge.


Anna is currently undertaking a Global Environment and Climate Change Law Master’s at the University of Edinburgh where she is analysing the potential of emerging technologies for carbon trading. She is the founder of the University’s Climate Conversation affiliated with the Social Responsibility and Sustainability Team. She is also participating in the Clinton Global Initiative University.

Anna also represented Gibraltar and the UK at the UN Youth work session with the Austrian Ministry of Climate Protection in collaboration with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to develop a strategic framework for education on sustainable development.