Add news
March 2010
April 2010
May 2010June 2010July 2010
August 2010
September 2010October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011March 2011April 2011May 2011June 2011July 2011August 2011September 2011October 2011November 2011December 2011January 2012February 2012March 2012April 2012May 2012June 2012July 2012August 2012September 2012October 2012November 2012December 2012January 2013February 2013March 2013April 2013May 2013June 2013July 2013August 2013September 2013October 2013November 2013December 2013January 2014February 2014March 2014April 2014May 2014June 2014July 2014August 2014September 2014October 2014November 2014December 2014January 2015February 2015March 2015April 2015May 2015June 2015July 2015August 2015September 2015October 2015November 2015December 2015January 2016February 2016March 2016April 2016May 2016June 2016July 2016August 2016September 2016October 2016November 2016December 2016January 2017February 2017March 2017April 2017May 2017June 2017July 2017August 2017September 2017October 2017November 2017December 2017January 2018February 2018March 2018April 2018May 2018June 2018July 2018August 2018September 2018October 2018November 2018December 2018January 2019February 2019March 2019April 2019May 2019June 2019July 2019August 2019September 2019October 2019November 2019December 2019January 2020February 2020March 2020April 2020May 2020June 2020July 2020August 2020
123456789101112131415
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
News Every Day |

Climate Change Litigation: the Australian Government Gets Sued

“It’s time the government told the public about the impact climate change will have on our future and the economy.”

– Katta O’Donnell, The Guardian, Jul 24, 2020

While coronavirus ravages life, dominates policy and clouds debate, that other pressing issue of addressing climate change has moved into a more modest gear. That has not prevented some bubbling activity from taking place on the matter of litigation. While climate change law suits remain in their swaddling clothes, some shape is discernible. In countries where fossil fuels remain sovereign, legal actions have focused on restricting or preventing the approval of projects and holding companies accountable on environmental risks associated with their activities.

Short of the bare fisted force of legal action, people’s tribunals, community bodies and petitions have tended to urge change in the field, drawing attention to the predations of climate change policies. In December 2005, for instance, Sheila Watt-Cloutier filed a petition on behalf of the Inuit with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights claiming that US climate change policy had breached their human rights. As she stated at the time, “A declaration from the commission may not be enforceable, but it has great moral value…. Protecting human rights is ground occupied by both reasonable governments and civil society.”

In April 2019, the Australian legal firm Corrs, with unintended punning, predicted a “third wave” of climate change litigation. “In that wave, investors will seek to recover their losses from directors, auditors and advisers who have not confronted climate change risks.” Communities affected by the vicissitudes of climate change would also “litigate to try to force action by government and the largest emitters, and to seek damages from those they think might be held responsible for contribution, inaction, and obfuscation.”

In December 2019, a galvanic jolt passed through the field of ecological justice with a ruling by the Netherlands’ highest court in Urgenda Foundation v. Netherlands. The Dutch Supreme Court upheld the decision of the appellate court affirming the original decision that the government cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020 (compared to 1990 levels). While the Dutch State did not disagree with the threat posed by climate change, their argument rested on the primacy of political decision making: it was up to political representatives to decide on the levels of reduction.

In their judgment approving judicial scrutiny of such governmental actions, the justices noted that inadequate action in addressing climate change posed a “risk of irreversible changes to the worldwide ecosystems and liveability our planet” with a “serious risk that the current generation of citizens will be confronted with loss of life and/or a disruption to family life… that the State has a duty to protect against.” The European Convention of Human Rights reaffirmed the State’s obligation “to protect the life and the right to private and family life of its residents”.

The ruling gave Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, enough to suggest that “a clear path forward for concerned individuals in Europe – and around the world – to undertake climate litigation in order to protect human rights” had been made. “The potentially devastating effects of unchecked sea rise, heat waves, uncontrollable forest fires, hurricanes and other growing emergencies must spur us all to demand courage and decisiveness by Governments everywhere in responding to these threats.”

As of January 2020, the number of climate change cases filed was recorded at 1,444. A climate change litigation update furnished by Norton Rose Fulbright noted in February this year that suits had “been filed in 33 countries, in addition to cases brought in regional or international courts and commissions. The vast majority of these cases continue to be commenced in the United States (US), followed by Australia, United Kingdom, European Union, New Zealand, Canada and Spain.”

On July 22, university student Katta O’Donnell filed a civil action in the Australian Federal Court that may find itself in the same league as Urgenda, albeit with a somewhat more corporate flavour. She wished, in her words, to put the government “on trial for misconduct”. The action makes the dangers of climate change, and a state’s obligation to inform investors of those dangers, a central theme. “At all material times,” the action observes, “there has existed a significant likelihood that the climate is changing, and will continue to change, as the result of anthropogenic influences.” To that end, “Australia is materially exposed and susceptible” to the risks posed by climate change.

Such risks loom large for the investor – in this case, the investor who seeks to trade in government bonds, a market in Australia worth A$700 billion. Such considerations “can have a serious material impact on a decision by an investor to invest in Sovereign bonds and on the value of Sovereign bonds.” In lending money to the government, investors were entitled to be appraised of these risks, being “material to [their] decision to trade in exchange-Australian government bonds (e-AGBs)”. In “failing to disclose climate change risks to investors,” claim O’Donnell’s lawyers, “the Commonwealth of Australia is accused of breaching its duty of disclosure and misleading and deceiving investors.” The requisite standard of care and diligence was therefore not met. “The standard is equivalent to the legal standard imposed on company directors in Australia.”

The current Australian government, overly friendly to the fossil fuel sector, filled with barely closeted climate change denialists, will find O’Donnell’s action troubling. The voter turned demanding investor is a truly threatening prospect.

The post Climate Change Litigation: the Australian Government Gets Sued appeared first on CounterPunch.org.



Read also

Post Office memes flex on Trump’s attempt to defund it

Roundtable: Bargain-bin free agents, overall team defense and other rim protection questions

Dive in, it’s lovely in Northern Ireland



News, articles, comments, with a minute-by-minute update, now on Today24.pro




Today24.pro — latest news 24/7. You can add your news instantly now — here