The Guardian: Dutch Supreme Court Upholds Landmark Ruling Demanding #ClimateAction

Photo above courtesy of Greenpeace Netherlands; taken at the #Protestival held on 14-15 December 2019 at Schiphol International Airport

Article originally published here by Isabella Kaminski in The Guardian, 20 December 2019 at 8.08 EST

The Supreme Court of The Netherlands has upheld a ruling ordering the country’s government to do much more to cut carbon emissions, after a six-year fight for climate justice.

Climate protesters at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport last weekend. Photograph: Piroschka van de Wouw/Reuters

The court ruled that the Dutch government had explicit duties to protect its citizens’ human rights in the face of climate change and must reduce emissions by at least 25% compared with 1990 levels by the end of 2020.

The non-profit Urgenda Foundation, which brought the case, welcomed the “groundbreaking” judgment. The original judgment in 2015 was seen as a landmark in the then nascent field of climate litigation, and inspired similar cases across the world, from Pakistan to New Zealand.

David Boyd, the UN special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, said it was:

“the most important climate change court decision in the world so far, confirming that human rights are jeopardised by the climate emergency and that wealthy nations are legally obligated to achieve rapid and substantial emission reductions.”

The Dutch government had previously said it would comply with the substance of the ruling, but it repeatedly appealed over the legal basis for the decision. The latest national statistics show the Netherlands is very unlikely to meet the 2020 emissions target. 

The Netherlands passed its first piece of national climate legislation in 2018, it has published a more ambitious carbon plan for 2030, and it is closing its first coal plant next year.

According to the Supreme Court, individual nations have direct obligations under Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, covering the right to life and the right to private and family life.

Dennis van Berkel, a member of the legal counsel for Urgenda, said:

“The enormous importance of this case is not just that the Netherlands is obliged to act but that these principles are universal. No court outside the Netherlands is bound by this decision but the influence that this court has and the inspiration that it will give to others are really big.”

Denis van Berkel, litigation attorney for Urgenda

Van Berkel said that if the government did not comply with the ruling, Urgenda could start separate legal proceedings against it.

The Dutch climate minister, Eric Wiebes, said the government had “taken note” of decision and would issue a full response in January. He said the Netherlands had announced an “ambitious” set of measures this year to implement the judgment, although campaigners think it could go much further.

As well as inspiring cases against other national governments, Urgenda’s success has encouraged campaigners to take up legal arms against corporations. In April a group of social and environmental justice groups led by Friends of the Earth Netherlands began the process of suing the oil firm Shell, arguing that its business model threatens international climate goals and endangers human rights.

In a formal reply in November, Shell has denied it was liable. A month earlier the company’s CEO said it had “no choice” but to invest in oil and claimed it was “entirely legitimate” to do so.

“The Supreme Court’s decision has set an important precedent for the Shell case because they used similar legal arguments. It is a huge decision for all current climate litigation cases.”

Nine de Pater, a climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth Netherlands

Link to Friends of the Earth Netherlands, to join their petition against Shell Oil Company.

Link to the English version of Urgenda to learn more about their legal initiative.

7 Things Lawyers can do to Support the Global Climate Strike by climate justice.org.au

Published on the Climate Justice Blog, original article 18 September 2019, link here, re-posted with permission

By Dr Keely Boom

The Global Climate Strike is a wake up call to the world to stop the climate crisis. Students around the world are fighting for climate justice, with three clear demands: (1) transition to 100% renewable energy; (2) keep fossil fuels in the ground; and (3) help victims of climate change.

These young people are now leading the greatest social justice movement that the world has ever seen. This is a critical point in time where we have the opportunity to address climate change. But if we fail, the consequences will be devastating.

So, if you are a lawyer who wants to support the Global Climate Strike, what can you do?

1: READ THE SCIENCE

Teen activist Greta Thunberg has described climate change as an ‘existential threat’ and called upon leaders to ‘listen to the scientists’. The starting point is to read the latest reports from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). The IPCC stated in 2014 that the world is on the path to ‘severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts’ of human-caused climate change.

2: JOIN THE GLOBAL CLIMATE STRIKE

The students who are planning to march at the upcoming Global Climate Strike have urged adults to join them. The climate emergency threatens all of us. If we want to fight for climate justice, we can show our support by marching in the streets alongside the students.

3: DECLARE A CLIMATE EMERGENCY

If you hold a university position, you can ask your university to declare a climate emergency – just as Newcastle Law School has done. Your law firm could declare a climate emergency. You could join efforts to ask governments and other bodies like the Law Council of Australia to declare a climate emergency. At a personal level, you can commit to take emergency action through using your unique legal skills and experience to fight climate change.

4: BECOME A LEGAL OBSERVER

As a lawyer, or even a law student, you could choose to attend the Global Climate Strike as a Legal Observer. As a Legal Observer, you would not be participating in the strike, but instead observing any police interaction with the protestors. In some places there are already Legal Observer groups that you could join. Or you might want to start your own group to provide independent observation in your local area and train other lawyers in how to be a Legal Observer.

5: DEFEND CLIMATE ACTIVISTS IN COURT

Climate activists who engage in civil disobedience may be charged with offences. Young students may have little understanding of the legal system or their rights. Activists are unlikely to have resources to obtain private representation. As a lawyer you could provide legal advice and representation to activists engaged in the Global Climate Strike who face criminal law proceedings. There may also be activists who require legal advice around their rights at their workplace if they do not have the permission of their employers to do so.

6: BRING INNOVATIVE CLIMATE LITIGATION

As governments fail to meet the challenge of the climate crisis, climate litigation has spread around the globe. Young people in the US have brought lawsuits against governments over inaction. A farmer from Peru is suing a German utility company. The Philippines Human Rights Commission is investigating the world’s Big Oil, Coal and Gas producers for allegedly causing human rights violations. Climate litigation is a powerful tool in the fight for climate justice. You may be able to provide advice and represent communities and others seeking climate justice.

7: SUPPORT LEGAL REFORM

It is clear that our current legal system is failing to adequately address the climate crisis. We must reform our law to enable the emergency action that is required, while also safeguarding human rights and civil liberties. Lawyers have an important role in the urgent reform of legal systems around the world.

Take the opportunity this Global Climate Strike day to utilise your unique legal skills, experience and networks to address the climate crisis. 

We need everyone, including lawyers, to join the movement and ensure a safe climate for our children and all future generations.

Global Climate Strike to be held from 20 September to 27 September, 2019

Symphony of Science – Our Biggest Challenge

A musical investigation into the causes and effects of global climate change and our opportunities to use science to offset it. Featuring Bill Nye, David Attenborough, Richard Alley and Isaac Asimov. “Our Biggest Challenge” is the 16th episode of the Symphony of Science series by melodysheep. 

Visit http://symphonyofscience.com for more science remixes!

#climateaction #climatechange #CO2 #globalwarming #climatesong

Call to Action

Do you want to help make a difference? Retweet or post this onto Facebook (see sidebar) or donate, thanks!

The Crowd vs. Tarsands Mining in Canada

Beaver Lake Cree Nation is challenging the governments of Canada and Alberta for breaking their treaty promises by allowing 19,000 permits for mineral developments (mostly tar sands mining) on their territory. For more information, check here.

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META: 5 GREEN IDEAS FOR THE EU IN NEXT 5 YEARS

MARIE-AMÉLIE BRUN, Published JUNE 6, 2019, original article here

Picture credit: Frank Hui, flickr.com

CLIMATE ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE EUROPE PROTECTS FEATURED PODCASTS RULE OF LAW SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

After the European elections, META has great ideas to help new MEPs and potential Commissioners with five green ideas that could blossom in the next five years.

A short synopsis of the options offered:

1. A European Green New Deal

The European Union needs to get the ball rolling on a new environmental action programme – or European ‘Green New Deal’.

2. New European Commission Vice-Presidents for…

The European Commission plays a crucial role in the lawmaking process of the European Union. Various Vice-President positions already exist in the Commission, but the Environment and Climate roles are not yet represented at this level.

3. A Sustainable Development Goals strategy

17 Goals have been developed by the United Nations to achieve a sustainable future for all. These goals, called the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ – or ‘SDGs’ – target all aspects of sustainability, from poverty to clean oceans.

4. Net zero emissions

At the end of last year the European Commission presented a strategic long-term vision of achieving a climate-neutral economy by 2050. Last month eight EU countries called for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

5. A ‘Paris moment’ for Biodiversity

A study carried out by the world’s top nature scientists and representatives from 132 governments warned us recently that humanity faces a global environmental emergency.

The three-year assessment into the health of our planet’s ecosystems reveals the alarming extent of global biodiversity breakdown with up to one million species set to disappear within a few decades.

Marie-Amélie Brun sums it up in her article: 5 Green Ideas for the EU in the Next Five Years

For further reading: www.meta.eeb.org

Beaver Lake Cree February 2019 Hearing: Awaiting Court Decision

11 April 2019; originally published March 8, 2019 by Ana Simeon, RAVEN Trust

It was an emotional moment. The morning of February 19th, Beaver Lake Cree elders and community  members crowded into a packed courtroom, having risen before dawn to make the 3-hour journey from Lac La Biche to the Court of Queen’s Bench in Edmonton. The sense of expectancy was palpable: after waiting for so many years, thwarted by Canada and Alberta at every step, would they finally receive justice?

Throughout the hearing, the court heard affidavit evidence from 10 band members. In submission after submission, Beaver Lake Cree people expressed many painful losses. Elders, knowledge keepers and community members described how, due to unchecked industry, they are no longer able to meaningfully exercise the way of life and culture that was promised to them under Treaty 6. They spoke of the broken promises reflected in the 19,000+ Crown authorizations for tar sands and other industrial development in their territory.

Loss of caribou, pollution of water, fragmentation of culture: over three long days, Beaver Lake Cree witnesses spoke of the tragic consequences of neglected treaty rights in northern Alberta.

It was inspiring to see the resilience of this community that travelled for hours to have their presence felt. Youth sat front and centre, attentively listening and watching the colonial system in action. Elders struggled to hear but seemed to find humour in the evidence; specifically at claims from the province that Beaver Lake does not live in poverty.

Part of what was being debated at the hearing is whether the issues raised by the Beaver Lake Cree are of national importance. Of course, we think that they are: this is a case that goes to the heart of what Canada’s responsibility to uphold the treaties really means. In particular, the case — known as The Tar Sands Trial —  addresses questions about whether Treaty 6 (and all the Numbered Treaties) assures Indigenous Peoples of a way of life, and whether there should be  limits to how much land and resources the Crown can take up, as allowed in the agreement, before the Treaty is infringed.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government denies that the rights asserted by the Beaver Lake Cree even exist. The Crown denies that treaty infringement has taken place. For these hearings, a whole suite of Department of Justice lawyers has been tasked to challenge an under-resourced First Nation’s attempts to secure the funding it needs to go to trial.

“Canada’s position in Court stands in stark contrast to the high-level promises of the Trudeau government to promote reconciliation and to listen to Indigenous people,” says MKarey Brooks, legal counsel for Beaver Lake Cree. “Without this case, and the advanced funding order, these critically important issues will not get resolved.”

It is important to remember that reconciliation has a specific meaning in law: it is about forcing Crown sovereignty to take account with and be reconciled with the pre-existing rights of Indigenous Peoples, reflecting the prior use and occupation of land and resources. The  issues being brought forward by the Beaver Lake Cree are deeply significant for First Nations across the country – and for all Canadians who care about acting honourably and setting right our relationships with Indigenous Peoples.

That’s why we recognize that this small Nation should not have to foot the bill for this fight on their own.

At RAVEN, we are used to quick and nimble fundraising campaigns in support of rapid-response Indigenous legal challenges to pipeline and mining projects. The Beaver Lake Cree case has been different – it’s been legally complex, fiercely denied by Canada and Alberta, lengthy and drawn out.  It’s hard to believe, but the Nation has been championing their treaty rights for more than a decade!

We’re amazed and humbled by that commitment and staying power.  We applaud Beaver Lake Cree leadership for standing up again and again to demand justice. They do so strengthened in the knowledge that so many donors like yourself are at their backs. The wave of support from all across the country this fall and winter has been incredible – we’ve raised $246,000 and counting, more than 90% of it from people organizing, fundraising, and donating to see justice done. Please accept our most heartfelt gratitude.

We couldn’t have done this without movement allies, such as Equiterre, the Leap, and Climate Justice Edmonton, along with online fundraisers who have reached out to family and friends for support  for the Beaver Lake Cree.

As we all wait for the court decision, know that you are doing your part to defend the spirit of the Treaties, and to forge a new way forward for this country that upholds the rights of  the Indigenous Peoples who have stewarded the land, air and water since time immemorial. It is our honour to be standing with you.

With gratitude, Laurie, Ana and the whole RAVEN team

Link to Facebook Live Events here.

See You in Court Shell!

FOE Netherlands submits legal summons in historic climate case against Shell.

The Hague, April 5, 2019 – Today Friends of the Earth Netherlands will deliver a court summons to Shell to legally compel the company to cease its destruction of the climate, on behalf of more than 30,000 people from 70 countries. A 236 pagecomplaint will be delivered to Shells International Headquarters in the Hague this afternoon by Friends of the Earth Netherlands, ActionAid NL, Both ENDS, FossielvrijNL, Greenpeace NL,YoungFriends of the Earth NL, Waddenverenigingand a group of 500 co-plaintiffs. 

Donald Pols, Director of Friends of the Earth Netherlands said, “Shell’s directors still do not want to say goodbye to oil and gas. They would pull the world into the abyss. The judge can prevent this from happening.”

In the court summons, Friends of the Earth Netherlands outlines why it is bringing this groundbreaking climate litigation case against Shell, highlighting the company’s early knowledge of climate change and its own role in causing it. Despite acknowledging that the fossil fuel industry has a responsibility to act on climate change, and claiming to “strongly support” the Paris Agreement, Shell continues to lobby against climate policy and to invest billions in further oil and gas extraction.

This is incompatible with global climate goals. 

The 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, a key piece of evidence in this case, underlines the importance of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees for the protection of ecosystems and human lives, and outlines the devastating and potentially irreversible impacts of any “extra bit of warming”.

The court summons proves that Shell’s current climate ambitions do not guarantee any emissions reductions, but would, in fact, contribute to a huge overshoot of 1.5 degrees of global warming. The plaintiffs argue that Shell is violating its duty of care and threatening human rights by knowingly undermining the world’s chances to stay below 1.5C.

In addition, the plaintiffs argue that Shell is violating Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights: the right to life and the right to family life. In the historic Urgenda case against the Dutch state, the Dutch Appeals court created a precedent by ruling that a failure to achieve climate goals leads to human rights violations.

The court ordered the Dutch state to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020.

Roger Cox, who initially represented Urgenda, is now leading Friends of the Earth’s case against Shell. Roger said, “If successful, the uniqueness of the case would be that Shell, as one of the largest multinational corporations in the world would be legally obligated to change its business operations. We also expect that this would have an effect onother fossil fuel companies, raising the pressure on them to change.”

If successful, the court case would rule that Shell must reduce its CO2emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and to zero by 2050, in line with Climate Paris Accord. This would have major implications, requiring Shell to move away from fossil fuels.  

Friends of the Earth International Climate Justice and Energy campaigner Sara Shaw said, “In leaked company documents from the 1990s Shell predicted that environmental organizations would start suing the company for causing climate change, if it did not listen to the warnings of its own scientists. Well, that day has come. This rising tide of climate litigation will finally call climate wrecking corporations like Shell to account and stop them in their tracks.”

Several lawsuits holding polluting companies to account for contributing to climate change exist globally. In 2016 a Peruvian farmer filed a lawsuit suing German coal company RWE for its contribution to glacier melt. In 2017 several American cities and states started climate cases against Shell, BP, ExxonMobil and Chevron. 

Media contacts:

Lowie Kok, Friends of the Earth Netherlands
 landline: +31 (0) 20 550 7333
 mobile: +31 (0) 63 4930173

Sara Shaw, Friends of the Earth International; +44 (0)7974 008 270; press@foei.org

For general media enquiries:

Amelia Collinspress; [at]foei.org; +447740979709

Last year Friends of the Earth Netherlands launched the climate case with a liability statement sent to Shell: 
 Legal letter to Shell Wednesday 4 April 2018
 https://www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Milieudefensie_legal_letter_Shell_4-April-2018.pdf 

Shell’s response to legal letter 28 May 2018https://www.foei.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Royal-Dutch-Shell-plc_legal_response_28-May-218.pdf 

Shell rejects climate demands forcing court action Press release: 29 May 2018
 https://www.foei.org/news/shell-climate-demands-court-action 

Shell faces historic legal action in the Netherlands for its failure to act on climate change. Press release 4 April 2018: https://www.foei.org/press/shell-legal-action-netherlands-climate-change
 

About Friends of the Earth International:

Friends of the Earth International is the world’s largest grassroots environmental network, uniting 75 national member groups and some two million members and supporters around the world.

We challenge the current model of economic and corporate globalisation, and promote solutions that will help to create environmentally sustainable and socially just societies: www.foei.org

At The Crowd Versus, we support Friends of the Earth International in their endeavors to bring this climate case. We will post their important updates in our News feed.

Largest #ClimateStrike held by students world-wide on 15 March 2019

21 March 2019

Young adults speak out for their future to hold adults accountable for #climatechange

The school strike held by students, around the entire world, this past Friday on the Ides of March, was the largest to date.

Young adults protested to demand that politicians craft better climate oriented policies, for their future. Students gathered to protest what the adults have, in their eyes, abused from previous (business) actions and privileges to take materials and produce, without regard for the consequences for future generations.

Over time, these adults actions and (business) policy decisions contributed to the growth of carbon dioxide emissions which in turn contribute to a generally higher median temperature of the earth, as shown by scientific research by NASA.

This “demonstrates that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are the primary driver.” (From a statement of 18 world-wide scientific organizations, in 2009).

An increase can definitely be measured with human activity as the main driver of the increase. The earth has been through climactic changes in the past.

This one is unprecedented due in part to the earth’s past history of stabilization, around the past 2,000 years.

There exists scientific consensus upon scientific consensus, and that scenarios and possibilities exist to halt this increase by changing human interactions.

Students are taking matters into their own hands, under the leadership of Greta Thunberg, who stood up every Friday to protest and to hold adults accountable, initially all by herself.

The United Nations invited her to speak and she did so with furore, as you can see and hear here on YouTube.

From fridaysforfuture.org: https://www.dw.com/en/fridays-for-future-students-hold-international-climate-change-protests/a-47927393

We fully support the students in their endeavors to effect proper change in this ever-changing world.

You can support them by supporting the environmental human cases now pending, which have sometimes taken over 25 years to arrive at a level where they can have a world-wide impact.

For instance, the Chevron v. Ecuador case has taken over 26 years to now stand in front of the Supreme Court of Canada, on the very basic issue of whether human rights trump corporate privileges on a global scale.

You can also become an (online) activist by using your favorite activity to promote awareness for these cases here.

Because when we stand together, we stand stronger!

A UN Treaty to Reduce Corporate Impunity Advantages

4 March 2019

OPINION: A promising negotiation is taking place at the UN Human Rights Council. A legally binding treaty on business and human rights could give victims transnational corporations’ malpractice a lot more power to pursue the justice they deserve. The EEB is stepping up its efforts to make the most of this opportunity to achieve environmental justice globally.

By Nick Meynen, European Environmental Bureau (EEB)

Photo credit: By Henry Mühlpfordt – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1993, Ecuadorian citizens sued Texaco (that became Chevron) for leaving behind a massive amount of deadly pollution from decades of oil operations in the Amazon Rainforest. Twenty years and an unprecedented legal ordeal later, Ecuador’s Supreme Court ordered Chevron to pay $9.5 billion to clean up. Chevron refuses and instead paid a vast army of lawyers and PR firms to sue the victim’s lawyers and discredit them and Ecuador’s Supreme Court. The EEB crowdfunded for the lawyers who defend the 30.000 Ecuadorean plaintiffs. They are still proceeding the case in Canada. 26 years after opening a court case that they won at the highest level six years ago, the victims still face massive pollution problems and corporate impunity.

This case explains why it was Ecuador who took a bold initiative. In June 2014, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution drafted by Ecuador and South Africa. An open-ended intergovernmental working group with the mandate to elaborate an international legally binding instrument on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with respect to human rights, chaired by Ecuador, was established. After three sessions in 2015, 2016 and 2017, a ‘zero draft’ of this new legally binding treaty on business and human rights was presented.

The EEB has written to the the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to comment on the draft. Francesca Carlsson, Legal officer for the EEB:

“We regret that that there is no mention of the need to protect Human Rights and Environmental defenders and journalists from abuse, harassment, criminalization and harm. It is often thanks to the work of defenders and the media that victims are able to organize themselves to claim their rights. There should be dissuasive measures on corporations and governments that use methods to silence defenders.”

In the past decade, the number of environmental defenders killed, often on the order of or by the transnational corporations that this treaty tries to regulate, has gone from one a week to four a week.

Carlsson also said that in order to truly have justice for victims, “it is important that they are given the opportunity to ask the courts for injunctive measures, including relief.” She also listed a list of positive elements in the draft that should not get compromised in further negotiation stages. The draft of this treaty attempts to widen the scope of jurisdiction for victims, allowing them to benefit from the most protective legislation. Multinational corporations already have the means to benefit from “forum shopping”, picking the countries with the legislation most favorable for their case.

The legally binding treaty on business and human rights is a promising initiative that could seriously improve global environmental justice. That is sorely needed, given the fast-rising global environmental justice movement, which is linked to the ever increasing amount of environmental conflicts, which the EEB also helps to map in the Atlas of Environmental Justice. The treaty is also a direct opposite of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms adopted in trade deals, as they expand the powers of transnational corporations. The EEB is one of 100s of organizations behind an European campaign that calls for rights for people and rules for corporations. Aside from stopping ISDS, the organizations behind this campaign want the EU to fully engage with the UN Treaty on business and human rights.

You can join the more than 500.000 Europeans who support this campaign here.

Originally published by Nick Meynen at metamag.org, link here