Monday, June 26, 2017

Climate change: To the courts!

There's an interesting case in court today: student Sarah Thomson is challenging the government's climate change target:

Sarah Thomson, 26, will have her case against Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett for the perceived failure to set emissions targets that reflect the science of climate change heard on Monday.

"Every year we're experiencing more extreme weather like cyclones, droughts and floods. Entire communities are being left devastated, yet our Government is burying its head in the sand," Thomson said.

While some have dismissed the action as a joke, Thomson will be climbing the court steps armed with affidavits from two of the foremost climate scientists from New Zealand and the United States, backed by lawyers from Auckland firm LeeSalmonLong.

The case revolves around the Minister's target-setting powers under sections 224 and 225 of the Climate Change Response Act and the degree to which they are governed by the UNFCCC (which the Act incorporates in its purpose and schedules). If the court concludes that the Minister's power is strongly constrained by the UNFCCC and that (in light of that) her targets were irrational, she could be required to set new ones. There's an analysis here by Otago law student Charles Owen, which suggests that the chances of that happening are not good - but I guess there's only one way to find out. And at the least it'll force the government to come clean about its target-setting process, and let us learn whether there was any improper purpose (e.g. adhering to the UNFCCC in name only) involved.