Update on the Climate Change Litigation Mock Trial

For the past two years members of the Feasta climate group, in collaboration with a number of other organisations, have been planning to hold a mock trial in the UK. The recent ruling in favour of the claimants in Urgenda’s case against the Dutch Government has been of great encouragement to them.

Our mock trial is seen as a step towards a real court action to seek a judgement against the UK government, requiring it to put in place a mechanism or mechanisms to cut greenhouse gas emissions at a rate and extent commensurate with the best scientific evidence. Our legal team has advised us that a case based on the legal principles of Rationality and Proportionality would be most likely to succeed in the UK. The claimants would allege that the government’s actions are irrational and disproportionate in relation to the need for urgent and far-reaching cuts in emission documented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s AR5 report and in further more recent scientific publications.

The mock trial aims:

1. To facilitate an actual court case (or cases) in the near future by:
∗ Serving as a catalyst to help acquire funding for this;
∗ Attracting a claimant or claimants;
∗ Building a legal team;
∗ Organising and testing evidence;
∗ Acquiring expert witnesses;
∗ Developing an instruction manual to guide future claimants, legal professionals and law students.

2. To raise awareness among the general public, NGO’s, climate scientists, politicians etc. of the need for court action to address the gulf between the urgent and far-reaching actions on Climate Change dictated by the best and most up-to-date scientific evidence, and the British Government’s disproportionate response to this need.

3. Assist in the training of law students by increasing their knowledge of Climate Change Litigation and by developing their skills in pleading.

Our Team:  Professor Jane Holder has agreed that University College London will host the event and provide an event organiser. Barristers, Richard Lord QC, Marc Willers QC and Richard Harvey assisted by lawyers from ClientEarth, Emily Shirley, a non-practising barrister, and Rajeev Sangroula a lawyer with an MLB in Environmental Law have agreed to help to prepare the case for the claimant in the mock trial. Roger Cox, who organised the Urgenda court case, will offer advice. We have identified a possible mock Judge. Prof Kevin Anderson, a leading climate scientist, and Dr Geoff Meaden who was an expert witness in the trial that led to the acquittal of the Kingsnorth Six have agreed to act as expert witnesses.
We have an embryonic publicity team including the journalist Adrienne Margolis and Hugh Chapman, who has experience in web design and publicity along with Andy Terry to help with our social media presence. We have already benefitted from advice from the science journalist Wendy Barnaby.

The mock trial and CapGlobalCarbon

Climate Change litigation could provide a tool to facilitate the introduction of CapGlobalCarbon.  Without CGC in place  a judge could only make a court order to require a government to cut emissions at a faster rate as in the case of Urgenda versus the Dutch Goverment.  However without an effective mechanism to do this the government would eventually breach the order and would be back in court.  The problem would be solved eventually if instead judges could require governments to cooperate in the establishment of a global scheme such as CGC. When such a scheme was in place the judge could simply require a recalcitrant government to comply fully with the scheme.

If you are interested in getting involved with the litigation project, please read on. Below is a list of ways to help.

Fund raising: Can you join our fund raising group to raise money for additional publicity for the mock trial and to pay for the real trial? Can you contact potential donors by phone or email? Can you help write a skeleton grant application that can be tailored to specific donors with different asks/budgets? Can you donate something yourself?
Publicity: Can you help by contacting Guardian Films, The BBC etc to see if they are prepared to make a film for national and local t.v. coverage? Can you make a video for Youtube or know of someone who might? Can you blog for us? Can you write and distribute press releases?

Conclusion: The mock and real trial are likely to cause a stir in Westminster and generate a lot of useful publicity. We live in hope that climate litigation will eventually make a major contribution to a safer world.
For further information and offers of help please contact Dr David P. Knight at david.knight77@ntlworld.com.

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