Sarah v govt climate litigation – perspectives from court

Written By: - Date published: 6:30 am, June 28th, 2017 - 19 comments
Categories: climate change, disaster, Environment - Tags: , , ,

What to Do When Your Future’s at Risk and Your Government Doesn’t Care

(Huffington Post)

New Zealand is the latest country to be sued for its failure to act on climate

On June 8, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken observed, “I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.” With these words, a case brought by a group of 21 young people against the government for failing to protect their right to a safe climate was granted permission to proceed to trial. Her decision came nearly two years after the Urgenda Foundation sued the Dutch government and won – a decision which ordered the government to reduce emissions in line with scientific recommendations, by 25% from 1990 levels by 2020.

Although the governments of both countries are working to overturn these decisions, climate lawsuits are spreading rapidly around the world. Cases have been brought against the governments of Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, and Pakistan (not to mention countless others targeting corporate actors).

Next up is New Zealand…

Waikato law student Sarah Thomson is taking the NZ government to court over the gross inadequacy of its climate change targets. Background post is here (including the case documents). The court case started this week.

New Economics Movement co-founder Deirdre Kent wrote about her impression of the first day,

The argument that New Zealand is small therefore we don’t need to do much was thoroughly demolished, especially with Salmon’s suggestion that if the boat is sinking everybody bails, no matter how small their bucket.

He took us through the difference between the target of 1.5 degrees vs 2 degrees of warming. Reality strikes when you realise that, although he said he wouldn’t exaggerate, he used the word ‘catastrophic’. Yes beyond two degrees it is catastrophic and James Renwick had reminded us outside that it is only five years till we get to 1.5 degrees. David Salmon persuasively argued that you shouldn’t rely on technologies that don’t exist yet to take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. He said it was like telling someone to keep smoking in the hope someone would invent a cure for lung cancer. One cannot predict inventions. Therefore no real weight can be put on that hope.

He impressed on the judge the comprehensiveness of the AR% [attributable risk] summary of climate change knowledge worldwide The sheer size and scale of the work was noted and the fact that it is always out of date before it is published. He sai, “I don’t want to make you read it all Your Honour, is scary reading about floods and famines, mass migrations and conflicts and some of it is dry and detailed”. She replied, “I’ll be happy to read it”. He said,”Maybe not happy by the time you finish.”

My thoughts, as always, went to economics. Where were the economists in this court? I couldn’t see a soul What would they say if they were here? Yes, Salmon talked about Business-as-Usual scenario and I thought that even Helen Clark’s government did nothing to stop the intensification of dairy because it feared the economy wouldn’t grow enough and they would be out of government. And so we get agricultural emissions rising.

And Naomi Klein realised the economy was at war with the climate.

So I thought what would it really take to change the economic system from growth dependent to a healthy one? How many really want to face up to the money system and that the land tenure system (and therefore the tax system) simply have to change. It’s a big shift for people’s mindsets. What causes the growth imperative? It is the combination of privately owned land system with an interest-bearing debt money system controlled by private banks. A match made in hell. Maybe we have to get to hell before we wake up.

Opening arguments, from The Herald,

[Sarah’s] lawyer, Davey Salmon, today argued in the High Court at Wellington that the National Government was looking for reasons to delay taking action.

“No one wants to be the first nudist at the beach,” he said.

“We shuffle along with the crowd, but no one takes the first brave step.

“But every country needs to be bold and brave, even if the other countries aren’t yet. By behaving like this, we’re exacerbating delays from others.

“We must not hide behind the way in which our wealth is secured, or our relative size. Every city and country in the world can break it down into reasons why it should not act.”

Salmon said that the Government was wrong in its approach to the Paris Climate Accord, by treating two degrees of warming as a target rather than an absolute upper limit.

(my emphasis).

RNZ had a synopsis of the situation,

New Zealand has committed to reducing emissions by 11 percent on 1990 levels by 2030 as part of the Paris agreement. However, New Zealand’s most recent greenhouse gas inventory shows emissions in 2015 were 24.1 percent higher than 1990 levels.

IS at No Right Turn,

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.

Final court day is today.

 

Moderator note – zero tolerance for climate change denial in comments. Bans will be given without warning. 

19 comments on “Sarah v govt climate litigation – perspectives from court”

  1. When Sarah’s (future) children ask, “What did you do about climate change, mum?, she’ll have a great story to tell.

    • If she hopes to have future children that she can hold a conversation with, she better have them now, there just isn’t enough time left for 9 months incubation and 3-5 years education of the child
      Sorry to troll, if speaking the truth is trolling ?

      • Stunned Mullet 1.1.1

        Idiot

      • RedLogix 1.1.2

        Didn’t I see you driving around in a van with a VHEM sticker on it sometime in the 90’s Robert? How many more years are you going to waste making predictions that never quite come true?

    • Blade 1.2

      “What did you do about climate change, mum?, she’ll have a great story to tell.”

      You have to be kidding, right? Lets concentrate on the court case.

      What happens if she wins? What changes? Nothing in my opinion. This women is a law student…and she can’t work that out in advance? She must be a first year student.

      • weka 1.2.1

        If she wins the govt has to review the targets and reset them in line with international thinking on what is necessary. That’s really important.

      • RedLogix 1.2.2

        What changes? Nothing in my opinion.

        She’s already gotten CC more local media attention in two weeks than all other coverage this year.

        Besides here you are commenting about it.

        • Blade 1.2.2.1

          ‘She’s already gotten CC more local media attention in two weeks than all other coverage this year.’

          Only for people interested in CC. Most of us aren’t for a variety of reasons.

          Weka states:

          ”If she wins the govt has to review the targets and reset them in line with international thinking on what is necessary. That’s really important.”

          The problem here is the politics around CC is fluid. Most governments are scared of being seen as not towing the line regarding international
          consensus on CC. So they talk big, and do little. Like New Zealand.

          Trump cut through that pretense. So should we. If this women wins her case, the government will procrastinate in a variety of ways. By that time, new agreements with new targets will make any former targets obsolete.

  2. Ad 2

    Really helpful Weka.

    Would you mind re-posting the links to the actual submissions from both the Crown and Sarah Thompson? Makes for good context in the discussion.

    • weka 2.1

      Cheers. They’re in the original post linked above (have amended the post to show where).

  3. roy cartland 3

    What a hero. We’ll look back at this one day – and all of today’s idiotic detractors will ‘remember’ being on her side, like they all were with apartheid, women’s vote, springbok tour, children’s rights, etc.

  4. I cannot understand why, in this country , instead of seeing climate change as a real problem, (which it is ) why not also see it as an opportunity and a new challenge.

    Develop new technology , patent, and sell to the world.

    There are some brilliant minds in this country, I’m sure that with Govt backing, research and development institutions would relish the challenge to find the new technology to answer at least some of the problems.

  5. esoteric pineapples 5

    “Zero tolerance for climate change denial in comments. Bans will be given without warning.”

    Nearly every anthropomorphic climate change denier I have every encountered is male, white and over 40. I’m sure there are some who don’t fit that stereotype but barely one or two I have personally come across.

    I’ve developed my own totally unscientific theory for this which I call “The Men’s Shed Theory of Anthropomorphic Climate Change” which is basically an evolution of the principal of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. Very often, the white male mind tends to assume that it’s point of view is innately the correct one. Mildly inquiring, it feeds information into its brain until it comes to its own conclusion based on its own logic. The fact that this disagrees with almost all qualified scientists means very little because the white male mind believes that whatever conclusion It comes to is undoubtedly the correct one.

    • RedLogix 5.1

      And yet probably a majority of climate scientists are white and male. Isn’t life complicated. 🙂

      I have this other theory that people who are NOT white and male are too stupid to care about anything as complicated as climate change one way or another. /sarc

  6. Matt 6

    There’s a saying: ‘The only thing worse than a lawyer…is a law student.’

    This isn’t about climate change. It’s about a jumped up self righteous law student looking to make a name for herself.

  7. Matt 7

    There’s a saying: ‘The only thing worse than a lawyer…is a law student.’

    This isn’t about climate change. It’s about a jumped up self righteous trainee lawyer looking to make a name for herself.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Housing report earns Nats the red card
    National’s failure to acknowledge and fix the housing crisis will be their legacy. Labour will tackle the housing crisis head-on, says Labour Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford. ...
    1 day ago
  • Sluggish growth reflects nine years of drift from National
    Today’s GDP figures reflect an economy that the National Government has allowed to drift along on the basis of growing population rather than improving productivity and adding value, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “It is important to recognise that ...
    2 days ago
  • National’s campaign of deception an affront to democracy
    Voters this week have a clear choice between Labour’s optimism and honesty, or rewarding National’s campaign of relentless lies, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Day after day National has been deliberately spreading lies about Labour, our intentions and what ...
    2 days ago
  • National’s economy scorecard: D for drift
    New Zealand’s economy is failing the very people it is supposed to uplift, characterised by stalled productivity, exports going backwards and a Government content to let it drift, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. “Voters have a clear choice ...
    2 days ago
  • Another day – another health crisis
    News today that the emergency department at Waikato has turned 180 patients away is another crisis for the Government and its besieged health system, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark. “It’s astonishing that the Government has had to rely on ...
    2 days ago
  • Labour will get tough on loan sharks
      Labour will take a tough stance on loan sharks and make sure that the Commerce Commission is properly resourced to protect Kiwi consumers, says Labour’s Consumer Affairs spokesperson Michael Wood.   “People on low incomes must be protected from ...
    3 days ago
  • GP letter more evidence of failure in mental health
      A letter of complaint by medical practitioners to the Ministry of Health and Capital and Coast District Health Board underlines how badly patients are being let down by mental health services in Wellington, says Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern.  “The ...
    3 days ago
  • GP letter more evidence of failure in mental health
      A letter of complaint by medical practitioners to the Ministry of Health and Capital and Coast District Health Board underlines how badly patients are being let down by mental health services in Wellington, says Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern.  “The ...
    3 days ago
  • Tax cuts when kids go hungry shows National’s lack of moral compass
    National’s campaign of tax cuts that give $400 million to the top 10 per cent of earners, at a time when 120 Kiwi kids every year are being hospitalised for malnutrition, shows they have lost their moral compass, says Labour’s ...
    3 days ago
  • Freight being shifted off planes as fuel crisis worsens
    Export freight is being shifted off flights because of the Government’s failure to manage the risk of disruption to jet fuel supplies, says Labour’s Economic Development spokesperson Stuart Nash. “It has been revealed to Labour that non-perishable export freight is ...
    3 days ago
  • Apologise now Jonathan
    Health Minister Jonathan Coleman must apologise for his part in a $2.3 billion shortfall that has contributed to delays in cancer diagnosis and treatment, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark. “All the Minister could say in an interview this morning ...
    3 days ago
  • National’s health report card shows need for new plan
    From increased GP fees, to kids getting sick from cold homes, to denial of important surgeries, National’s underfunding of health has hurt Kiwi families, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern.   “It’s time to invest in the health of ...
    4 days ago
  • Eye clinic wait downright dangerous
    The fact that 9,500 Kiwis are waiting one and a half times longer than they should to get follow-up eye appointments is unacceptable and dangerous, says Labour’s Health Spokesperson David Clark. “These people are entitled to the reassurance that if ...
    4 days ago
  • National has serious questions to answer over Auckland fuel crisis
    Thousands of air travellers looking for answers to Auckland Airport’s fuel crisis should be demanding the National Government come clean over its failure to secure fuel supply for the airport, says Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern.  “There are serious questions the ...
    5 days ago
  • Come clean on trade before the election
    In the two days before the election, New Zealand MFAT negotiators will attend a negotiations meeting in Japan on the successor to the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), now called the TPP-11. The negotiations are shrouded in secrecy but we ...
    GreensBy Barry Coates
    6 days ago
  • National unravels on transport
    The release of extraordinary information showing that the East-West link could be the most expensive road in the world, at $327 million per kilometre, shows that National is fiscally reckless and out of ideas on transport, says Labour’s Transport spokesperson ...
    7 days ago
  • Saudi cover-up a perversion of democracy
    The Government has been exposed as dishonest after it was revealed that  they were wrong to claim they paid out $11 million dollars to a Saudi businessmen after legal advice, says Labour’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Parker.  “OIAs revealed on ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour supporting Te Reo Māori in schools
    Labour will support a future where New Zealanders from every background will have the ability to use Te Reo Māori in everyday conversations, says Labour’s Deputy Leader and Māori Development spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “Labour will commit to a target that ...
    1 week ago
  • Is National planning a secret fuel tax?
    Sources suggest National is considering a secret fuel tax to fund its controversial Roads of National Significance (RONS) programme, says Labour’s Transport spokesperson Michael Wood. “While the Government keeps up its stream of lies about Labour’s tax policy, sources indicate ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour’s plan for West Coast prosperity
    Labour’s regional development plan for the West Coast will build on its strengths in engineering and tourism, while delivering a much-needed upgrade to the Buller Hospital, says Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern.  “Labour’s vision is for a thriving regional New Zealand, ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour committed to fair and progressive tax system
    Labour is committed to a tax system where everyone pays their fair share and where we start to address the imbalances that have fuelled the housing crisis, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson and Labour’s Revenue spokesperson Michael Wood. "Today ...
    1 week ago
  • A challenge to Bill English
    ...
    1 week ago
  • Flavell’s fake news an insult to Māori voters
    A desperate Te Ururoa Flavell has resorted to fake news about Labour’s position on his unpopular Ture Whenua reforms, says Labour’s Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri. ...
    1 week ago
  • National’s tax cuts reckless and irresponsible
    It is time for Bill English and Steven Joyce to stop the scaremongering and lies, and front up to New Zealanders about the impact of their tax cuts, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. “Bill English has no credibility on ...
    1 week ago
  • Calculator shows Labour’s Families Package delivers
    Labour has launched a new online calculator that show how much extra families with kids will get from Labour’s Families Package, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. “Families can go to www.labour.org.nz/calculator and see how much better off they ...
    1 week ago
  • Strengthening New Zealand’s identity through Labour’s media and film policy
    Labour has today launched its media and film policy aimed at strengthening New Zealand’s identity and providing sustainability for the industry, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour to invest in parents and babies
    Labour will fund an additional 100 Plunket and Tamariki Ora nurses to increase the help available for vulnerable parents and babies, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. “It’s so important that our children get the best start in life. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour to build affordable homes and state houses in Hawke’s Bay
    Labour will build a mix of 240 affordable KiwiBuild starter homes for first home buyers and state homes for families in need in Napier and Hastings, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. “In 2016, the populations of Napier and ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour pledges more for Whānau Ora
    Labour will strengthen the oversight of Whānau Ora and provide an extra $20 million over four years to improve outcomes for whānau and families, says Labour’s Deputy Leader Kelvin Davis.    “We’ve created a new position of Whānau Ora Reviewer ...
    2 weeks ago
  • National’s housing band aid
    Throwing subsidies at an under-supplied housing market is one last desperate bid by National to be seen to do something about the housing crisis, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “First home buyers have been the collateral damage of National’s ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Housing, families, education and environment top priorities in Labour’s first 100 days
    Labour will take urgent action in its first 100 days in office to expand support for families and students, make rental homes warm and dry, find solutions to the mental health crisis and accelerate efforts to clean up our waterways, ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour pledges to unlock funding for Te Hiku sports hub project
    The Labour Government will inject nearly $3 million into the Te Hiku Sports Hub project, to help realise a much-needed health and recreational facility for the Far North, says Labour Deputy Leader and MP for Te Tai Tokerau Kelvin Davis. ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s plan to get job seekers into better work
    Labour will provide real support for people looking for work by increasing the amount of money someone can earn before their benefit begins to reduce, reinstating training incentives, and putting a renewed focus on upskilling and training, says Labour’s Social ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour sets strong target and plan for climate action
    Labour will set a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and take the necessary steps to achieve it, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern.  “Climate change is my generation’s nuclear-free moment. We have to take our place ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Are education cuts missing in National’s Fiscal Plan?
    National needs to explain why its plans for cuts to school transport have not been announced in its fiscal plan, says Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins.   “Buried in the Pre-election Budget update is a $5m a year cut to ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Joyce must come clean on Health and Education funding
    Steven Joyce needs to front up to New Zealanders and tell them whether he will fund health and education to meet increasing cost pressures, or risk seeing services cut and costs increase for parents, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson.  ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Housing crisis is National’s legacy
    Reports of tenants languishing in boarding houses for years because they cannot get a state house is yet more evidence National’s legacy is the housing crisis, says Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford.  “We used to pride ourselves in this country ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour calls for release of report into civil defence flaws
    The National Government must stick by its word given to other political parties and release a technical report before the election addressing critical flaws in New Zealand’s civil defence capability, Labour Civil Defence spokesperson Clare Curran said today.  “Cross party ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Credibility shot as Government runs out of steam
    New Zealanders are witnessing the desperation of a government clinging to survival, evidenced by policy on-the-hoof, dodgy maths and dirty politics, says Labour MP Phil Twyford. “New Zealand had been hoping we’d seen the end of dirty politics, but what ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Steven Joyce must apologise to New Zealand
    Steven Joyce needs to front up to New Zealanders and apologise for his patently false and cynical attack on Labour’s Fiscal Plan, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Every respected economic commentator has come out and said that Labour’s Fiscal ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Bill English didn’t answer because the Oreti is badly polluted
    Last night Bill English was asked by Paddy Gower in the Leader’s Debate: “Which river did he swim in as a kid, and is it now polluted?” Bill English named the Oreti River, but did not answer whether it is ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Nats put out dodgy numbers – again
    National’s promise to increase the number of elective surgeries to 200,000 is bizarre, given Jonathan Coleman has claimed 200,000 electives are already being performed, says Labour’s Health spokesperson David Clark. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Prime Minister’s Award to encourage young people into trades training
    Labour will introduce a $2,000 award for the best pupil in vocational courses in each public secondary school, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. “We know there’s huge demand for trades workers, particularly in the building sector, where construction ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Not another Nick Smith wild goose chase
    Only the election on September 23 can save the country and the RMA from Nick Smith, say Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford and Environment spokesperson David Parker. ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Government supresses Climate Change report
    The Government has deliberately sat on a critical Climate Change report for 5 months which they must now release, election or no election, says Labour’s Climate Change spokesperson Megan Woods.  “I want the report released immediately, so that New Zealanders ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Joyce gets it wrong on Labour’s Fiscal Plan
    Labour’s Fiscal Plan is robust, the numbers are correct and we stand by them despite the desperate and disingenuous digging from an out-the-door Finance Minister, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson. “Steven Joyce has embarrassed himself. This is a desperate, ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Making renting secure and healthy
    Labour will move to make renting a more stable and healthy experience for families, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern. ...
    3 weeks ago

Because it is now election day, all comments are disabled. In the morning certain posts will be enabled for comments - with full moderation. No comments violating the electoral act will be allowed. Normal service will resume at 7pm.