Climate change in the courts

Following up on yesterday’s post about the French “case of the century”, here is a link to a report from the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, released last month, on global climate litigation. By July 2020, the number of climate change cases had grown to more than 1,550, filed in 38 countries. Hopefully, this growing wave of climate cases will drive much-needed change. Unfortunately the law can also be used to defend the status quo. Thirteen US states have now brought in legislation to penalise protest against the fossil fuel industry. This article from Huffington Post, in June 2020, reports on Mississipi’s legislation, under which individuals and organisations which cause damage or losses that total more than $1,000 ― for example, by halting production at a refinery or stopping the flow of fuel through a pipeline ― could face felony charges punishable by up to seven years in prison and fines of up to $100,000.

Court convicts French state for failure to address climate crisis

Four French environmental organisations, Oxfam France, Notre Affaire à tous, Fondation pour la Nature et l’Homme and Greenpeace France, took the French state to court for its failure to fulfil its commitments under the Paris climate accord — and won! A Guardian article from Feb 3rd, 2021 reports on the case. The Tribune Administratif de Paris, giving the official report, calls it L’ Affaire du Siècle (The case of the century). 

To save the environment, drop GDP as the principal economic indicator

— one of the key messages of the review by renowned Cambridge economist Sir Partha Dasgupta into biodiversity. The 600-page review was commissioned by the UK Treasury, the first time a national finance ministry has authorised a full assessment of the economic importance of nature. A similar Treasury-sponsored review in 2006, the Stern Report,  is credited with transforming economic understanding of the climate crisis.

The UK government website offers the full 600 page report, a 103 page abbreviated report, and a 10 page summary of headline messages. Take your pick!

Call for groups to contribute to the COP26 climate summit

From the announcement sent out on January 21st by the UK Government Cabinet Office and Alok Sharma MP, President of the COP26 Climate Talks:

Applications have opened today to help shape the COP26 venue in Glasgow ahead of the crucial climate change talks later this year.

Groups of all kinds have the opportunity to bring climate action to life through fun and lively events, displays and workshops in the areas where many of the world’s leaders will be meeting in November.

This is likely to include demonstrations of virtual reality technology; showcasing innovation helping to tackle global climate change; opportunities for local voices from around the world through culture and arts; and youth groups provided a platform to show the impact they are making.

Organisations are being encouraged to work together with collaborative proposals wherever possible, with a focus on profiling the voices of those most impacted and on the front line of climate change.

Mankind’s ‘Global Ponzi Scheme’

The Guardian reports (13-1-2021) on a recent paper by a group of distinguished scientists, freely available in the online academic journal Frontiers in Conservation Science, Underestimating the challenges of avoiding a ghastly future. It surveys a large body of published work and draws a sombre conclusion. Besides documenting the ongoing Sixth Extinction, it considers the world’s political response, and links the growing tide of ethnic nationalism and populism to the increasing strain on resources and economic structures. It describes the apparent paradox of the continued rise in global human living standards, in the midst of ecological decline, as a global Ponzi scheme which will inevitably end with an ecological crash.

2020 was the warmest year for Europe

Data just released by the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (“Europe’s eyes on Earth”) show that globally, 2020 was very close to equalling the 2016 record for warmest year since records began, and that in Europe, temperatures were 1.6 degrees Centigrade above the 1980-2010 average — a record. In northern Siberia, the increase was dramatic — nearly 7 degrees.

Net zero would stop warming within 20 years

On a planetary scale, it takes many years to reach a new temperature equilibrium after a change in CO2 levels. If and when we reach net zero carbon emissions, for how how many years will temperatures continue to rise? New answers (reported in the Guardian on 7-1-21) suggest that it may be as little as 20 years — and that temperatures might then start to fall.