Day 1 - highlights from budyong hill
PM of Samoa did an opening address - Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Neioti Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi has been Prime Minister of Samoa since 1998.
Some things he talked about were -
The Blue Pacific Continent concept.
This article has more info about it.
Here’s a quote from the article -
“The Blue Pacific is a strong expression of Pacific Regionalism. It’s about reclaiming the identity that we are ‘one oceanic continent’ – and that as Big Ocean Stewardship States we can do more together than we can alone. It encourages us to see the collective potential of harnessing the energy and opportunity that lie both above and below our Pacific Ocean.”
Samoa has a target of having 100% renewable energy. They are planning a wind farm, 9 mini hydro plants and 5 solar farms.
Pacific Island nations get up to 40% of their income from selling fishing rights to foreign companies.
The Pacific Resilience Partnership was launched in 2016 and Samoa is a member along with several other Pacific nations.
I went to a workshop later in the day where they talked about “The Pacific Disaster Risk Financing Initiative”. It’s an interesting initiative which is designed to deliver quick injections of cash to governments immediately after eligible disasters. There is more info in the above article about it.
Wesley talked about the concept of “normative change” and global politics. It looks at what is appropriate behaviour. For instance slavery used to be normal but became unacceptable. There is a global norm shift happening regarding use of fossil fuels. Emitting GHG’s will become unacceptable just like slavery did. He said Pacific Island leaders are “Norm Entrepreneurs” who are at the forefront of instigating change and had a big influence at the Paris talks.
She talked about bringing about a sea change in climate politics in NZ. She strongly believes that the regular people of the country are missing from the debate. Good science and decisive leadership are essential ingredients. We can’t reach the Paris targets without addressing issues such as sustainability, environmental degradation and poverty. They are all interlinked. Genuine democratic public debate is needed. The targets set in Paris require ratcheting up ASAP. If the top 10% of emitters reduced their emissions to the level of an average European it would reduce global emissions by 1/3. She raised the question of how we maintain functioning democracies with fairness and good citizenship through periods of constant change.
Talked about the drivers and victims of the fossil fuel industry in NZ. She lives in Taranaki and has witnessed the effects of oil drilling and fracking there. She said it’s essential all oil industry subsidisation and exploration is stopped. Capitalism cannot save the day how ever you wrap it up. We have to find another way. Indigenous cultures have the answer. We must educate ourselves into a fairer, more inclusive society. We have to decolonise from capitalism. Somehow the privileged must be forced to look at themselves. The oil companies supported by the government are the drivers of the status quo continuing. $87.6M was spent last year which is double what was spent in 2007. The subsidisation is usually indirect like tax breaks or NIWA doing data collection and the info is then made available to oil companies for free to entice them to drill here.
Here is an article from 2013 with interesting info about how it works.
Sarah took the case against the government last year. She talked about CC litigation. The Netherlands government was forced by the courts to raise it’s Paris target from 17% to 25% after a successful case was brought against it. The court found that the government had a duty of care to protect citizens from CC. Good law needs to be in place to make litigation a realistic option. This is called The Urgenda Case.
She talked about the Public Trust Doctrine which is being applied in the US. Here is an article giving more info about it.
The other pathway is “Tort” law. A tort, in common law jurisdictions, is a civil wrong that causes someone else to suffer loss or harm resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the tortious act.
The idea is to make the polluter pay, but it can be difficult to prove causation. For instance Exxon Mobil has produces about 3.5% of the global GHG so trying to pin damage on one company is difficult. Attorneys General from New York and some other cities in the States have taken Exxon and some other companies to court for costs to defend against SLR and other CC effects. The oil companies have taken a counter case accusing the AG’s of collusion because they met to discuss how best to take some action.
A Peruvian man Saul Lliuya has taken one of the biggest energy companies in the world, RWE in Germany to court. They produce 0.5% of global GHG’s. The glacier that supplies their water supply is drying up so he is asking them to pay 0.5% of the damage costs.
Here’s some info about this interesting case.
The Commonwealth Bank in Australia was taken to court by a couple who were shareholders asking them to disclose to investors what threats it faced to it’s assets from CC. The Aussie Financial Regulator has warned that CC poses material risk to the financial system. The bank ended up disclosing information to avoid any consequences.
Here’s some info.
Sarah said the biggest obstacles to CC litigation are costs especially if costs awarded against you and the state of current law that may not provide good opportunities to take a case. She said the opportunities are that cases, even partially successful cases like hers create legal foundations for future cases. Also opportunities for collaboration and knowledge sharing are created.
It’s important to keep trying until the real ground breaking cases happen. Tobacco and asbestos are examples where many cases were taken until there were breakthroughs.
Nicole is a lawyer who has worked for Corporations and also for groups challenging them. She says they can be ruthless and must not be underestimated. (The oil company’s challenge talked about above is an example) She talked about the group “Client Earth” that takes legal action on environmental cases. They have won cases against the UK government on breaches of statutory obligations in regard to air pollution. She said it’s important that new laws are enacted around the world to ensure no costs can be awarded against litigators in environmental cases if they pass a certain threshold. She talked about Leghari Ali taking a case in Pakistan to try and stop a coal mine.
Greenpeace Norway have been trying to stop the Norway government issuing oil exploration licences through the courts.
Nicole said there are principles that are emerging about the roles of courts, consensus on the middle ground of climate science. By countries signing the Paris agreement they are effectively saying they agree with this science. Causation is the biggest issue because it is a collective problem we all contribute to.
Michael presented along with Nicole about the role of indigenous people in legal cases. He talked about a Waitangi Tribunal claim (Wai 2607) and the general potential of indigenous peoples in the Pacific and elsewhere to bring climate change claims against governments.
Here’s a bit about it - “In June 2016 a claim was filed in New Zealand’s Waitangi Tribunal on behalf of the Mataatua District Maori Council alleging that the Crown was acting in breach of its Treaty of Waitangi obligations towards Māori as a result of the New Zealand government failing to implement adequate policies to address the threats posed by global climate change. It was hoped that the claim would be heard this year. This claim appears to be the first climate change claim brought on behalf of indigenous peoples. The claim is based around the Crown’s obligations of “active protection” towards Māori stemming from article two of the Treaty of Waitangi. Such obligations have parallels with the common law “public trust doctrine” upon which climate change claims in the United States of America are based. Under this approach the government is held responsible as a trustee of the environment on behalf of indigenous peoples to deal with the threats of climate change.”
Michael said it was based on Article 2 obligations under the Treaty to provide active protection towards Maori regarding the environment. That they are suffering prejudicial effects and the environment is suffering. That there has been ineffective government consultation and ongoing harm. It is now not being heard until 2020. They will revise the case when the government presents it’s new Paris targets. If they feel they are inadequate they will carry on with the case. This sort of case is similar to the “Public Trust” cases in the US.
Some points from his keynote address after lunch.
The Blog posts are a collection of opinion articles written by CKM member Tom Powell for the Marlborough Express. Tom is a retired geologist who came to New Zealand in 2004 to work in the geothermal industry on the North Island, is a New Zealand citizen and now lives in Blenheim.