Friday, July 02, 2021

Climate Change: Legal action

Good news on the climate front this morning: lawyers for Climate Action are taking the Climate Change Commission to court over their lax budgets and dodgy accounting:

A coalition of more than 300 lawyers has filed suit against the Climate Change Commission and Climate Minister James Shaw in the High Court.

They allege the commission's recommended emissions budgets and advice on strengthening New Zealand's Paris Agreement target are not consistent with the international climate pact, the Zero Carbon Act or limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels.

"The Climate Change Commission’s advice looks ambitious on a first glance. However, when you dig into the detail, it fails to adequately address the scale and urgency of the task and is inconsistent with the legislation and international agreements it is meant to address," Jenny Cooper QC, the president of Lawyers for Climate Action New Zealand (LCANZI), said.

One of the key issues here is dodgy accounting: rather than using UNFCCC accounting as required by the Act, the Commission is setting its budgets and measuring progress using an unrecognised "modified" accounting system, which effectively lies about our progress. But they're also challenging the weak budgets, and weak advice on a new Paris target. They're wanting the Commission to go back and redo its work using honest numbers, and actually aim for the target they've been set.

Will they succeed? In a judicial review against an expert body, the court is likely to have a lot of deference towards the judgements of that body. But on a pure question of law, like the accounting question, I think it will be a different story. And that alone will force stronger budgets, because when stated in honest numbers the Commission's budgets simply are not credible.

And in case we need a reminder of why this is important: the heat-wave in Canada has killed at least 300 people, set multiple temperature records, then burned the town it set them in. Climate change is here, and its killing people. Stopping it is not a "nice to have", but a matter of survival. Not doing everything we can to stop it makes us suicidal murderers.