Bring on the judges!

Press release - 16 December, 2004
Climate liability and litigation in ten cases covering seven countries around the world is highlighted today at the United Nations climate talks. These initiatives have been taken by fourteen US States, twenty-eight NGOs and others to enforce the law to combat climate change, and have the collaborative support of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth International and WWF.

Two images of the Yanamarey glacier show a retreat in only 7 years. The glaciers in Peru have lost 22% of their area in the last 27 years according to a study made by the Peruvian Institute of National Resources.

Since the first case in 2002 against the US export credit bodies, legal action on climate change has increased over the last six months under a widening range of legal theories, underpinned by strong science. According to Climate Justice Programme Co-Director, Peter Roderick, this trend will continue and intensify until big emission cuts are made and compensation paid.

"Climate law enforcement has begun in earnest, and the courts have already responded positively. The legal relevance of climate change has now been accepted by US and Australian judges where decisions leading to more coal mining and electricity transmission were found to be illegal. And a Californian appeals judge has rejected the idea of "injury to all is injury to none" where global environmental impact is threatened by a federal statutory wrong, he said.

The 'detection and attribution' science was strengthened recently when leading scientists concluded with more than 90% confidence that human influence at least doubled the risk of last year's European heat wave. [Stott, et al.; "Human contribution to the European heatwave of 2003", Nature, Vol. 432, page 610, 2 December 2004]

Last month, the range of theories broadened to include public international law when an alliance of NGOs and individuals, including the Belize Institute of Environmental Law and Policy, Foro Ecologico del Peru and Pro Public (Friends of the Earth Nepal), submitted petitions to have world heritage glaciers and coral reefs placed on UNESCO's Danger List because of climate change.

Climate change is having a devastating effect on the world's glaciers. Huarascán National Park, located in the Cordillera Blanca in the Peruvian Andes, is the world's highest tropical mountain range. It is the home of the spectacled bear and the Andean condor. More than 20% of the glacial coverage has been lost in the Peruvian Andes since 1968, and melting glaciers form lakes which could burst. Glacial retreat is expected to reduce water availability, affecting food security and power generation, which in Peru is almost 70% hydropower.

"It is both unfair and unnecessary for communities in developing countries to remain the passive victims of damaging corporate activities and of inadequate governmental response in the developed world." said Roderick "One thing is clear. For as long as politicians and industry refuse to make the big cuts in emissions that are needed, and to compensate those facing damage, the judges will be asked to sort it out" concluded Roderick.

Notes: For Further information on the cases see: