Planet Watch

International youth file climate change lawsuits

Six Portuguese young people have filed a legal complaint at the European Court of Human Rights  (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France, accusing 33 countries of violating their right to a secure future by failing to take action to mitigate the climate crisis. The youths aged 12 through 21, represented by the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), are targetting countries whose policies on carbon emission reduction they say are too weak to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal of the Paris Agreement, citing the country ratings of the Climate Action Tracker. Named in the suit are the 27 European Union member states, as well as the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Global mayors envision car-free 'new normal'

The Global Mayors COVID-19 Recovery Task Force, representing cities on every continent, has announced a proposal for a post-pandemic "new normal" that will de-emphasize cars and carve out more room on the streets for bicyclists. The C40 Mayors Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery, issued July 15, seeks to create conditions that will proactively prepare cities for future pandemics, while addressing systemic injustices and keeping global warming below the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement. The Agenda calls for substantial investments in affordable housing and public transportation, the permanent banning of cars from many thoroughfares, an end to public investment in and subsidies for fossil fuels, and an embrace of the "15-Minute City" paradigm now being pioneered by Paris.

Ninth Circuit approves drilling within Alaska reserve

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on July 9 issued a ruling in favor of the US government, allowing oil drilling to proceed in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA). The court rejected a claim by environmental groups that a 2012 impact statement prepared for earlier drilling within the NPRA was inadequate to cover new planned operations by oil companies elsewhere in the reserve, a critical caribou habitat.

Canada high court dismisses case against pipeline

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal by the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations in British Columbia, ending their years-long battle against the construction of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline. The pipeline is a controversial project to carry crude oil between Alberta and British Columbia's coast. The First Nations filed their appeal after a February decision by the Canadian Federal Court of Appeals that upheld the pipeline's legality. "The consultation process initiated by Canada invited the participation of 129 indigenous groups impacted by the project," stated that ruling, "and more than 120 either support or do not oppose it." The Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh contested this. In a 2018 appeal, the Tsleil-Waututh nation asserted sovereignty over the land, and their "freestanding stewardship, harvesting and cultural rights in this area." Both nations further claimed that the pipeline's construction would obstruct access to water, game and agricultural resources.

Destruction of nature linked to new pandemics

Leaders from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Health Organization and the World Wide Fund for Nature joined to issue a stark warning that pandemics such as COVID-19 are a direct result of the destruction of nature caused by human activity. In an op-ed published by The Guardian June 17, top figures from each organization state that the destruction of forests and other habitats for wildlife, coupled with trafficking in wildlife, is causing a growing number of animal diseases to migrate to human hosts. In their call to action ahead of the UN Biodiversity Summit to be held in New York in September, the three senior representatives cite examples from prior incidents of environmental destruction that triggered new virus outbreaks in humans.

UN: world refugees break record —again

One percent of the world's population has been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict and persecution to seek safety either somewhere within their country or in another country, according to the latest Global Trends report released June 18 by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. As more people became displaced than at any time since UNHCR began issuing its annual study, fewer were able to return home—or even build sustainable lives in another country. "We are witnessing a changed reality in that forced displacement nowadays is not only vastly more widespread but is simply no longer a short-term and temporary phenomenon," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

Russia: state of emergency after Arctic oil spill

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a state of emergency June 3 after 20,000 tons of diesel oil leaked into a river within the Arctic Circle. The spill went unreported for two days, which may have caused irreparable damage to the region. The spill was caused by the rupture of a fuel tank at a power plant on the Ambarnaya River near the Siberian city of Norilsk, Krasnoyarsk Krai. The plant is owned by Norilsk-Taymyr Energy Company, a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel), which is the world's leading nickel and palladium producer. The company had reportedly spent two days trying to contain the spill, before alerting the government. The Russian Investigative Committee (SK) has launched a criminal case over the pollution and alleged negligence. The director of the power plant, Vyacheslav Starostin, has been taken into custody but has not yet been charged.

ICC complaint filed over COVID-19

The Canadian Institute for International Law Expertise (CIFILE) has asked the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate individual world leaders and the World Health Organization (WHO) for alleged international crimes relating to their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group states that past disease outbreaks, including SARS, suggest that the director-general of the WHO should have notified nations well before the initial March 11 notification date. The complaint asserts that the response to the pandemic constitutes a "crime against humanity" under Article 7(k) of the Rome Statute. The complaint further states that the ICC may exercise jurisdiction over international crimes under Articles 12 and 13 when a member state of the ICC has been affected. Specifically the complaint cites Canada as an affected signatory to the Rome Statute.

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