Categories
Adaptation Australia Domestic court Imminent risk Indigenous peoples' rights Sea-level rise Uncategorized Vulnerability

Australian Torres Straits Islanders case

Summary:
In the Australian Torres Straits Islanders case, modelled on the Dutch Urgenda case, a group of indigenous Torres Strait Islanders living on islands off Australia’s coast initiated domestic class action proceedings before the Federal court of Australia to claim that the Australian government has failed to protect them from climate change, leading to the progressive destruction of their ancestral islands.

Context:
In another, separate climate claim, a group of eight Torres Strait islanders took a Communication to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2019, alleging that Australia had violated the human rights of low-lying islanders because of its failure to take climate action.

Petitioners:
This case was brought by two First Nations leaders on behalf of the remote Torres Strait islands of Boigu and Saibai. They brought the case on their own behalf and “on behalf of all persons who at any time during the period from about 1985 and continuing, are of Torres Strait Islander descent and suffered loss and damage as a result of the conduct of the Respondent”.

Arguments made:
Based on scientific evidence, the plaintiffs argue that climate change is already threatening their native title rights and distinctive customary culture. They allege that, due to the progression of climate change and the increasing storms and rising sea levels that result from this, they face an increasing threat of floods and of rising salt concentrations in their soil. Some islands, they argue, could become uninhabitable if the global temperature rises to levels more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. One of the plaintiffs noted that that his people have lived on the islands in question for over 65,000 years.

The plaintiffs allege that the Australian government owes a duty of care to Torres Strait Islanders. It must, in other words, take reasonable measures to protect them, their environment, their culture and their traditional way of life from the harms caused by climate change. Because current climate action and targets are not consistent with the best available climate science, they argue, this duty of care has been breached. They invoke the Torres Strait Treaty, which requires the Australian government to protect and preserve the marine environment in the region. The plaintiffs seek both mitigation and adaptation measures and rely on the duty of care recognized in the Sharma case.

Full text of the petition:
The full text of the petition is available at climatecasechart.com.

Categories
Blog Uncategorized

IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report Released

On 9 August 2021, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth assessment report. Entitled ‘Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis’, the report contains cutting-edge climate science findings from the IPCC’s 6th assessment report (AR6) reporting cycle, which will be completed in 2022. The report, which was approved by the 195 member governments of the IPCC, notes that the effects of climate change are intensifying, and that all parts of the planet are experiencing worsening weather events due to greenhouse gas emissions. Combining climate modelling and new evidence and methods, the report reaches the following conclusions (among others):

  • Human influence has unequivocally warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land. Global warming has caused widespread and rapid changes in the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and biosphere. This type of warming last occurred 125,000 years ago.
  • Global surface temperature has increased more rapidly since 1970 than in any other 50-year period over at least the last 2000 years.
  • The scale of recent changes across the climate system as a whole and the present state of many aspects of the climate are unprecedented over many centuries to many thousands of years.
  • The report estimates that 1.5°C of global warming will be reached in the early 2030s.
  • Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Evidence of greater extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and, in particular, their attribution to human influence, has strengthened since AR5.
  • Global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the 2050s under all of the emissions scenarios currently considered. Global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius and 2 degrees Celsius will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.
  • Increasing global warming causes increases in the frequency and intensity of hot extremes, marine heatwaves, tropical cyclones, and heavy precipitation. It also causes agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions, as well as reductions in Arctic sea ice, snow cover and permafrost.
  • Many changes due to past and future greenhouse gas emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia, especially changes in the ocean, ice sheets and global sea level.
  • With further global warming, every region of the globe is projected to increasingly experience concurrent and multiple changes in climate. These changes would be more widespread at 2 degrees Celsius compared to 1.5 degrees Celsius global warming and even more pronounced for higher warming levels.
  • From a physical science perspective, limiting human-induced global warming to a specific level requires limiting cumulative CO2 emissions, reaching at least net zero CO2 emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions. Strong, rapid and sustained reductions in CH4 (methane) emissions would also limit warming and improve air quality.
  • Every tonne of CO2 emissions adds to global warming.
  • Temporary emission reductions in 2020 associated with measures to counter the COVID-19 pandemic had led to a small and positive net radiative effect (i.e. effect on warming influence). However, the report finds that the effects of this are minor given the temporary nature of these emission reductions.

Categories
Domestic court Emissions reductions European Convention on Human Rights France Paris Agreement Sea-level rise Uncategorized

Commune de Grande-Synthe v. France

Summary:
This case was brought to the French Conseil d’Etat by the municipality of Grande-Synthe, which is a low-lying coastal community, against the French government. The plaintiffs alleged that the government had taken insufficient action to combat climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and invoked the European Convention on Human Rights, the Paris Agreement, and domestic environmental regulations.

Admissibility:
The case was declared admissible on 19 November 2020 by the Conseil d’Etat. The Government was given three months to justify its current approach to climate measures. The Conseil d’Etat indicated that the Paris Agreement, and France’s 40% reduction target by 2030 as opposed to 1990 emissions levels, would be used to interpret the State’s obligations.

Merits:
Pending

Remedies:
Pending

Separate opinions:
Pending

Implementation measures taken:
On 1 July 2021, it was announced that, in light of this case, the French Conseil d’État would require the Government to take measures before 31 March 2022 in order to reach the target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions totalling 40% by the year 2030.

To achieve the reduction targets set out in the Paris Agreement, meaning a -40% reduction in emissions as compared to 1990 levels, the Government had previously adopted a reductions plan covering four time periods (2015-2018, 2019-2023, 2024-2028 and 2029-2033), each with its own reduction targets. The Conseil d’État observed in its decision of 1 July 2021 that the level of emissions measured in 2019 had respected the annual target set for the period of 2019-2023. However, the 0.9% decrease in emissions observed was too low when compared to the reduction objectives for the previous period (2015-2018), which were 1.9% per year, and compared to the objectives for the following period (2024-2028), which are 3% per year. Provisional data for 2020 might show a significant drop in emissions, but this must be to some extent due to pandemic-related restrictions and must therefore be regarded as “transitory”. It did not, by itself, guarantee that the reductions needed to achieve the 2030 target were being made. The Conseil d’État found that additional efforts were needed in the short term to achieve the target of 12% emissions reductions between 2024 and 2028.

Date:
Pending

Type of Forum:
Domestic

Status of case:
Pending

Suggested case citation:
Decision on the Admissibility: French Conseil d’Etat, Commune de Grande-Synthe and Others v. France, case no. 427301, Admissibility, 19 November 2020.

Links:
http://climatecasechart.com/climate-change-litigation/non-us-case/commune-de-grande-synthe-v-france/