Update on the “Sink or Sue” climate litigation project

Nov 06, 2014 Comments Off on Update on the “Sink or Sue” climate litigation project by

[February 2016 note: it has now been decided that rather than holding a mock trial, it would be preferable to plan for a real trial. More details soon.]

Brian Davey, John Jopling and David Knight (all members of Feasta’s climate group) came up with the idea of a mock trial at a Feasta study group at Rossbeigh in September 2012. The mock trial was seen as an initial step towards a real court action and would develop and test a claim against a fictitious British Fossil fuel company for wrongdoing in consequence of their past and present contribution to the already dangerous levels of greenhouse gases that have accumulated in the atmosphere and their plans for unrestrained production in the future. An aim of the mock trial would be to seek to obtain publicity for, and advance the implementation of “CapGlobalCarbon” (Cap and Share).

To develop the idea, a joint FEASTA/ Winchester Action on Climate Change seminar was held in Winchester in May last year. The seminar brought together several barristers and lawyers including Kirstin Caspar, Greenpeace International’s lawyer, Mike Schwarz the successful defender of the Kingsnorth six, and Roger Cox author of Revolution Justified: why only the law can save us now. Roger is the lead lawyer on the case against the Dutch Government for their inaction on Climate Change induced by flooding. The meeting was briefed by two internationally renowned scientists on the science of attribution of flooding to climate change. In addition Kelly Mathesen, filmmaker and writer inspired us about the work of “Our Children’s Trust”, a youth-driven, global climate recovery campaign, establishing the legal right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate OCT is currently claiming against government in all the US states.

The seminar strongly endorsed the idea of a mock trial.

Subsequently, Portsmouth was chosen as a location for three reasons: 1. Two reports highlight the vulnerability of City to flooding while several Portsmouth local government wards have a high risk of flooding combined with a high score on a deprivation index. 2. Damian Carney, barrister and principal lecturer in the Portsmouth Law school attended the Winchester seminar and is keen to develop a tool kit for vulnerable communities, NGO’s, businesses and lawyers and law students for use in UK and in other vulnerable countries to help them plan, fund and undertake climate litigation. The toolkit would arise from a series of mock trials1. 3. Portsmouth University has a state of the art moot court room and would fund part of the cost of the first mock trial.

Progress so far:

1. Richard Lord QC, co-author of Climate Change Liability may be prepared to act as mock court judge
2. A small team has been assembled to facilitate the mock trial. This includes Rajeev Sangroula, a Nepalese lawyer with an interest in climate change litigation and Social Justice, Olya K- Mehri who has just graduated with a double first, Geoff Meaden, retired lecturer in Environmental Science, and Emily Shirley who has a law degree.
3. A law firm ClientEarth specialising in environmental law with a division on Carbon Litigation have expressed interest and will attend the mock trial.
4. Dr Robert Marsh, Southampton University has agreed to act as a special witness. He is an expert on the role of global warming in flooding with particular interest in the melting of Greenland glaciers.
5. Dr Geoff Meaden will act as mock claimant.
6. We are seeking someone to act as a mock respondent.
7. Portsmouth, Brighton, Southampton and Reading University law students will participate in the mock trial.
8. Mike Schwarz QC has said that he may be prepared to help by training students in pleading in the mock trial. We are seeking other QC’s to help with this.
9. Rajeev and David Knight briefed a recent well-attended meeting on Climate Justice organised by the Joseph Rowntree Trust. We received several expressions of interest including from Katharine Knox, JRF Policy and Research Programme Manager on Climate Change and Social Justice.
10. Tony Stoller, the newly appointed chair of WinACC is passionately interest in climate justice and chairs two JRF trusts. He expresses continuing interest in the mock trial.
11. We have assembled a vast body of up-to-date information to support the case for the claimants including material on all previous UK and global climate litigation cases.
12. We have going correspondence with Roger Cox who hopes to attend the mock trial.
13. Juliette Daniels, a Director of Climate UK, is working with JRF to launch the online ClimateJust platform this winter and this will carry input and output for the mock trial. DK will follow up with Juliette and Mike Peverill, the ClimateJust project manager at Climate UK, and Kristen Guida, Climate South East Director (and Chair of Climate UK).
14. DK has approached Kevin Anderson, UK’s leading radical climate scientist who didn’t rule out the possibility that he might act as an expert witness.

We expect the mock trial to take place in Easter of 2015. We’ll keep you posted as our plans develop.


Featured image: Representation of justice in a sculpture located at the top of the Justice Palace in Manaus, Brazil. Author: Cricava Technologies. Source: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1361962

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Briefing Papers, Cap and Share Documents

About the author

Dr David Knight has parallel existences as: an academic scientist (Biophysics, Biochemistry, Ultrastructural Analysis); an activist with interests in climate change and civil and military nuclear power; an inventor of surgical devices based on silk; teacher of medical sciences and ecology; and sculptor. He is currently an Honorary Research Associate in Zoology at Oxford University and has held three visiting professorships and a visiting fellowship at MRC MBL Cambridge. He is interested in economics, theology and Jungian psychotherapy but has no expertise in these. He is has a lovely immediate family: wife, two children and five grandchildren. He is a contributor to Feasta's book Sharing for Survival.

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