Climate Policy Radar’s search tool breaks a critical research barrier by enabling users to search non English law and policy documents, and see English translations of passages that match their search.
Effective policies are paramount to tackling climate change. Yet existing data about existing laws and policies – and which ones work – are sparse, siloed and not readily accessible. One of the greatest barriers is language: national laws and policies are written in a variety of different languages, providing a considerable challenge for researchers, policymakers, and analysts trying to understand the law and policy landscape.
We believe that by enabling users to search the full text of documents originally written in any language, we can help break down barriers between climate law and policy professionals working in different regions of the world. Longer term, we aim to have a multilingual user interface so that users can search the site and view results in different languages as part of our mission to democratise access to national climate law and policy data.
This new functionality is one of our most asked for features, and it has proved popular with users of our Global Stocktake Explorer who have had access to translated search matches since June 2023 as part of our work to support the UNFCCC official process this year.
How does it work
Documents are translated to English using Google’s Cloud Translation API. While the quality of auto-translation does not always capture full meaning and nuance from the original language, we hope that it serves as a first step to improve accessibility and reveals which national jurisdictions are discussing and addressing critical areas of climate action that may have previously gone overlooked.
Searching a non English PDF document will show English translations of all the passages that match the search term. These will also be highlighted in the original language PDF document. Clicking on the matches will navigate the user to the place in the document where the match appears. Here is an example search of “flood defence” in the “Adaptation strategy to climate change in the Czech Republic”.
Searching a non English HTML document will only show English translations of all the passages that match the search term. Highlights over the full text of the document are not available for HTML documents yet, but you can view the original source document and translate it using Google Translate in your browser. Here is an example search of “marine pollution” in the Vietnamese “Law on Marine and Island Resources and Environment No.82/2015/QH1”.
Even though the quality of auto-translation does not always capture full meaning and nuance from the original language, this is a significant step forward in enabling researchers, policymakers, and analysts to uncover the full depth and breadth of national legislation and policymaking underway across the world that may have continued unnoticed.
Our plans for the future
Introducing this new functionality is the first step as part of our mission to democratise access to national climate law and policy data. In the coming months we are planning to enable people to:
- Switch between the English and original language version of passages that match a search. This will make the passages easier to find and translations easier to compare.
- See the full text of the document and highlights, in both English and the original language, for both HTML and PDF documents. This will enable the user to see where the passages appear within the context of the full document.
Sign up to be notified when this functionality is available.
Longer term, we want to have a multilingual user interface so that users can search the site and view results in different languages. French and Portuguese are the first languages that we would like to support. Check out our public product roadmap to learn more about our plans for the future.
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This blog post was originally published on Climate Policy Radar