Every country in the world now has at least one law or policy to address climate change; these laws vary widely in type, scope, and ambition. Although scholarship on the many types and levels of effectiveness of enacted climate legislation is still growing, legal experts are taking note of a recent trend in the adoption of formal climate legislation that is economy-wide or cross-sectoral in scope, sets out both a broad and long-term direction for climate policy, and ensures some measure of accountability for the executive branch. In the absence of a commonly agreed definition, this article will loosely define criteria for these “climate framework laws.”

This article identifies several countries that have adopted climate framework laws of this type: The United Kingdom, Mexico, New Zealand, and Denmark. These countries form a small case set from which to compare elements. From existing scholarship, this article draws on what lessons can be learned from their implementation. Whether the law is new or two decades old, each faces particular challenges and shortcomings. Climate framework laws create new risks but also incur a number of benefits that may be unique to them. This article examines the relationship between climate framework laws and the Paris Agreement, as well as implications for climate litigation. Finally, the article touches on the future of climate framework laws in other countries.