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Not a fair COP…a report from Paris by Robert Hutchison

While six years ago the big Copenhagen conference ended in tears of anger and disappointment, the 21st Conferences of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris ended in tears of relief and Mexican waves of approval last Saturday – even though the outcome is a rotten deal for the world’s poorest people.

Let’s take the positives first. For the first time 195 nations have been brought into a common cause in taking collective action to minimise the risks of dangerous climate change. And in reinforcing the agreement to limit average global temperature rise this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius, the Paris conference has given a clear signal that the age of fossil fuels is coming to an end. Whether it will end soon enough to maintain a reasonably safe climate remains an open question. What happens in the next few years remains critically important.

But it was not a fair COP. Because those most vulnerable to extreme weather events tend to be those who have done least to cause the problem, human-caused climate change is a major issue of social justice. And at Paris the Least Developed and most vulnerable countries were sold short. The hollow centre of the outcomes are the dependence on voluntary action and the continuing failure of the wealthiest countries to commit to the finance needed for mitigation, adaptation and ‘Loss and Damage’. Given the scale of the problems – and compared with the hundreds of billions that went to shore up the banking industry on both sides of the Atlantic – very little funding has been guaranteed. And the track record of rich countries on making such transfers is not reassuring.

For many of the Least Developed Countries and Small Island States the issue of ‘Loss and Damage’ – those impacts from climate change to which vulnerable countries can no longer adapt – was an important strand of the negotiations. For the first time the Paris Agreement includes ‘Loss and Damage’ as a stand-alone item, but, at the insistence of the USA and the EU the Agreement explicitly states that this ‘does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation’. But make no mistake, many of those most badly hit by extreme weather events will be seeking compensation. And not least because of the grossly deceitful nature of the fossil fuel companies, we should expect a growing stream of litigation on climate change impacts in the years ahead.

The dependence on voluntary action – on it being left to each government to decide what to do – does not put the world on the path to avoid dangerous climate change. At present the world is gambling on the potential of unproven technologies – like Biomass Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) – to reduce emissions in the second half of the century.

At the conclusion of the Paris negotiations, David Cameron announced that ‘We’ve secured our planet for many, many generations to come’, an utterance as bland and inappropriate as it was irresponsible. If we are to stabilise the climate for future generations wealthy countries need to make much steeper – and more immediate – cuts in our emissions than those currently planned. We need to invest more heavily in renewables – and discontinue subsidies to fossil fuels. The British government is leading us in completely the wrong direction – with bogus assurances and misplaced investments.

After a fortnight in Paris I came home with the belief that the main tasks of those seriously concerned with the injustices of climate change must be not just to press for faster emissions reductions in wealthy countries, but also to campaign for a legally binding global limit on fossil fuel extraction. The race against time continues.

Above all, climate change presents an opportunity to give the highest priority to human wellbeing, with stronger smarter communities, healthier lifestyles, and millions of new jobs. Facing up to climate change and ending abject poverty are two sides of the same coin. Unprecedented innovation – not just in energy and transport systems but also in food production, and in the way we organise and live in cities – a cultural and moral revolution, transparency and greater integrity of governments at every level are also needed. The climate change threat will only be fully met – and the opportunity for greater human wellbeing only fully realised – when the collective courage of humanity forces governments to face up to their responsibilities. Climate change remains everyone’s issue; we need to tread more lightly, more softly, while listening and responding to the most vulnerable.

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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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March 20 2015 update

Welcome to the first update on the CapGlobalCarbon project, a global system for addressing climate change.

Since the CGC website went public we’ve been working hard to attract visitors and answer questions. We are collecting these questions which we intend to include in a FAQ on a later stage.

This is what happened during the last two weeks:

1. John Jopling published a 21 page article on the Greenhouse UK platform. “In this new Green House gas, John Jopling of the Irish think-tank Feasta argues that the situation calls for non-governmental actors to set up the necessary system of global regulation that governments seemingly cannot deliver.”

2. Erik-Jan van Oosten wrote “Making sure we’ll be safe – a global solution to avert disastrous climate change” for the Valhalla Movement. This article goes into the arguments why governments would want to endorse CapGlobalCarbon based on what they can and cannot agree upon.

3. The OECD insights blog features an article about CapGlobalCarbon by John Jopling. “This post suggests how the OECD could play a crucial part in helping to establish an effective global response to climate change.”

4. CapGlobalCarbon can now be found on twitter and Facebook. We are providing links and quotes which we hope you will share with your friends and colleagues.

5. We are looking for people who want to join the core group. Every Monday at 11.00 GMT we meet on Skype and invite you to join us. In this stage we mostly need help with media, strategy and contacting key figures. To see who’s involved in the core team see the about us page:  . Email us at info@capglobalcarbon.org if you’d like to be invited into the core group and briefly describe what you think you can add to the team.

6. It is now possible to affiliate or endorse CapGlobalCarbon as an organization. An endorsement means that you allow us to list your organization on our website as a proponent of CapGlobalCarbon. Affiliation means you are becoming a partner that actively promotes CapGlobalCarbon and commits to finding at least one other organization that is willing to affiliate. Please check the “My organisation is interested in affiliating with CapGlobalCarbon” box in our contact form to let us know if your organization is interested in endorsing or affiliating.

7. A detailed explanation of the scheme including the history behind CapGlobalCarbon, specific arguments for governments and business and the differences with other capping schemes is now accessible on our website:

8. The Guardian newspaper featured a letter from John Jopling in reaction to the ambition of the paper to work towards practical solutions to climate change.

Kind Regards,

The CapGlobalCarbon Team: John Jopling, Erik-Jan Van Oosten, Mike Sandler, Caroline Whyte and Teresa Carter

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What is Cap Global Carbon?

Cap Global Carbon is an initiative from outside government to make sure that global emissions from fossil fuels are steadily reduced year by year until we achieve a zero-carbon economy. It provides a safeguard.

It also provides an opportunity: CapGlobalCarbon will contribute significantly to the reduction of global poverty and inequality, help to secure indigenous land rights and protect the global commons.

This is a chance for Humanity to realise our potential to work together as a global force for the good of all life on Earth.

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