case study

To Halt Climate Change, Laws Won’t Work Without Accountability

A woman wearing a bandana looks off camera.

The Challenge

Climate change is quickly becoming one of the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges. Everyone, from world leaders and civil society organizations, to socially conscious business owners and high school students, are ringing the alarm—and urging countries to rapidly act to protect our vulnerable planet. However, the existence of environmental laws, regulations and multilateral agreements—which experienced a 38-fold increase since the Stockholm declaration on the human environment in 1972—have not succeeded in obtaining any meaningful reduction of greenhouse gas emissions around the world.

Our Approach

To call attention to the lack of legal implementation and action on climate, despite the prolific growth in environmental laws and agencies worldwide, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) produced the first-ever global assessment of environmental rule of law. The report found that globally, the lack of political will to  implement environmental laws continued to be a key driver of climate change, pollution and widespread species and habitat loss. Burness was brought on to help publicize the findings.

Burness worked with UNEP staff to develop press materials that helped highlight the most interesting findings of the report, focusing on global trends in the creation of environmental agencies and laws, lack of enforcement, and the the growing criminalization and murder of environment defenders. We promoted the report’s findings to top-tier environment writers in the United States and Latin America.


Burness secured coverage of the report in more than 20 top-tier media outlets, including two stories in the Associated Press, and stories in Agencia EFE, Deutsche Welle, Devex, El Pais, El Tiempo, Notimex, SciDev.Net, VICE and Xinhua, among others. The stories highlighted the extent to which environmental crimes are going unpunished in countries around the globe and captured the importance of shifting the world’s focus from the creation of new laws and agreements to making sure that governments comply with existing measures to address climate change.

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