G8 States Could Face Class Actions on Climate Change

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Irish Times

G8 States Could Face Class Actions on Climate Change

The US and other G8 countries could face class actions on behalf of people in the developing world if they fail to take convincing steps to cut the emissions blamed for causing climate change, a Filipino environmental lawyer has warned

Frank MacDonald

Greenpeace activists from the MY Esperanza paint the message 'CLIMATE CRIME' on the bow of the tanker Victory Prima. The ship is carrying crude palm oil for the Sarana Tempa Perkasa. The US and other G8 countries could face class actions on behalf of people in the developing world if they fail to take convincing steps to cut the emissions blamed for causing climate change. (Image: © Greenpeace/Novis)

Antonio Oposa was speaking yesterday after a self-styled Asian
Peoples' Climate Court in Bangkok predictably found the G8 guilty of
"planetary malpractice" in violation of the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change.

Organised by the Tcktcktck
campaign, which has a team of young T-shirted "negotiator trackers" at
the climate talks here, the two-hour mock trial heard a case "filed" on
behalf of children from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines
and Thailand.

One of the "witnesses", a sherpa from Nepal, told
presiding judge Amara Pongsapich, chairman of Thailand's human rights
commission, that ice in the Himalayas was melting at a much faster rate
than 30 years ago, causing flash floods and severe drought. Afterwards,
Mr Oposa said it was "only a matter of time" until properly constituted
international tribunals began hearing class actions seeking reparation
from "over-consuming countries" for damage caused by climate change in
developing nations.

"A group of lawyers are actually thinking of
it already," he said, referring to a network called Global Legal Action
on Climate Change.

"The countries most affected in Asia and Africa will begin to stand up and take action if they get nothing from Copenhagen."

among the G77 group of developing countries over what they see as a
search for loopholes by rich nations to evade their responsibilities
led to a walk- out by delegates from one of the sessions preparing for
December's climate conference in the Danish capital.

the G77 - which actually consists of 130 UN member states, plus China -
resorted to a familiar tactic by threatening to block further talks
unless more substantive progress was made in drafting a realistic
negotiating text for ministers to finalise in Copenhagen.

frustration was evident among the International Youth delegation at the
Bangkok talks; they told a press briefing that they had "no confidence
in the road to Copenhagen" because the current text was "so weak and
full of ‘false solutions' that it's unacceptable".

They cited the
failure to secure strong targets on cutting emissions from developed
countries, a growing concern that the Kyoto Protocol would be allowed
to expire in 2012 and lack of guarantees for protection of indigenous
peoples' rights and interests.

Joshua Kahn Russell, a US delegate
from the Rainforest Action Network, said: "We cannot allow rich
countries to use US inaction as an excuse to kill the Kyoto Protocol.
Our future cannot be held hostage to the politics and interests of the
United States or any other country."

Anna Collins, representing
the Youth Climate Coalition in Britain, said young people had been
"looking to the rich developed countries like those in the EU to take a
leading role to secure an ambitious climate change deal in Copenhagen,
but they are failing us."

Kim Carstensen, of the World Wildlife
Fund, said delegates in Bangkok were "still in the mode of talking in
circles - on finance, adaptation and mitigation. What's needed is a
strong political will to consolidate the [negotiating] texts for a
decisive outcome in Copenhagen."

Kaisa Kosonen, Greenpeace
International's climate policy expert, said it was "no wonder
developing countries are getting very impatient" when there was as yet
"no real targets on the table and no real finance" to help poorer
countries adapt to climate change.

At the Climate Action
Network's daily briefing, she said developed countries had "avoided
discussing their targets" to reduce emissions for the past four years
and still had not agreed on how these should be measured or even
whether 1990 should be the base year.

Referring to moves by the
US and others to replace the Kyoto Protocol with a less binding
agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change, Ms Kosonen said the world "doesn't have time to start from
scratch" and needed to keep the "architecture" so laboriously built
around Kyoto.

She said 1990 "must be the base year" against which
to measure cuts in emissions - as it is under the protocol - and there
must also be five-year commitment periods, with the emphasis on
domestic action rather than seeking offsets by buying carbon credits

A report published yesterday by the Netherlands
Environmental Assessment Agency said current proposals by the developed
countries to reduce emissions by 10-15 per cent by 2020 "do not yet
suffice" to limit global warming to a rise of 2 degrees Celsius in
average temperatures.

"Developed countries as a group would need
to increase their reduction targets for 2020 by at least 6 to 10 per
cent, in order to keep the 2 degrees objective [agreed both by the EU
and G8] within reach", it said, adding that global cost would be only
0.2 per cent of GDP in 2020.


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