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.