“Fresh approaches to tackling climate change” – Feasta/WinACC workshop

Saturday June 29th – Sunday June 30th 2013, St Lawrence’s Parish Room, Colebrook Street, Winchester Hampshire, SO23 9LH.

Governments aren’t tacking the climate crisis – so what can we do? This seminar is part of an ongoing global discussion to explore opportunities for new kinds of action.

Environmental activists and anyone with an interest in environmental law are cordially invited to a weekend seminar organised by FEASTA and WinACC (Winchester Action on Climate Change). The seminar will consider fresh approaches to tackling climate change and how they might be put into action. It will appeal to those who like to hear alternative perspectives, challenge conventional thinking, and explore ideas through discussion with others.

Saturday’s workshop welcomes anyone interested in the potential to mitigate climate change through legal action, whether they have legal expertise or not. We are hoping to attract a number of environmental lawyers.

Note: this programme is provisional and parts of it may be modified.

Saturday June 29th. How might the courts be used to tackle climate change?

A mixture of talks and discussion, with an emphasis on collective learning. The day’s seminar is seen as a stepping stone towards the possibility of an actual legal case against fossil fuel companies or governments brought by plaintiffs presently suffering from damage caused by climate change or threatened with future damage. It seeks to build on the history of legal actions (the latest being the action threatened against the Dutch Government) and the body of expert publications (see Climate Change Liability – Transnational Law and Practice edited by Richard Lord et al. and Risky Business: The Threat of Climate Litigation to the Fossil Fuel Industry by Kristin Casper).

Some time will be spent on discussing the use of moots to develop the strongest case for the plaintiff(s) and anticipate the defence’s arguments.

We have already gathered an interesting team of participants including: Kelly Mathesen representing Our Children’s Trust and WITNESS and involved in the climate proceedings in the US, known as Atmospheric Trust Litigation; Kristin Casper, Greenpeace International’s legal counsel and advisor on international environmental law and legal aspects of campaigning; and Roger Cox, the lawyer heading up the threatened action against the Dutch Government. We are hoping that other experts on climate change litigation will also join us.

Two international climate change scientists, Dr John Church , an expert on sea level rise and Myles Allen, an expert on the link between extreme weather events to climate change will both be attending the Saturday session.


How could a legal case be constructed to prevent more fossil fuels being extracted than is safe to burn (without carbon capture and storage)?

  • Would a case based on flooding be best, on the grounds that causation and attribution are clearest for this?
  • Could a case be brought on the basis of past or future flooding caused by sea-level rise, larger and more frequent storm surges, and/or increased risk of extreme rainfall?
  • In which country would court actions be most likely to succeed? Which coastal /estuarine communities in Britain?
  • On what legal principles could an action be based (nuisance or negligence)?
  • Who would be the plaintiffs? Who would be the defendants?
  • How would the case for the plaintiffs be constructed (evidence that fossil-fuel related emissions are the principal cause of climate change; attribution of flooding events to climate change; the size of global carbon budgets compared with plans to exploit fossil fuel reserves and the size of carbon resources; predicted consequences of global warming; failure of international and national governance to act)?
  • Can we predict the arguments for the defence (e.g. “Our company’s actions are only responsible for a small percentage of the global emissions; it’s not our responsibility but the national government’s; there is only a statistical probability that climate change was responsible for a given event”) and how might we rebut these?
  • What are the legal precedents? What legal remedy, such as an injunction or declaration, would be available?

How can we take this forward?

  • What are the enablers for pursuing a legal case (e.g. funding; local activists; stakeholders; town/city councils; legal professionals)?
  • How could we get community participation?
  • Which format would be more effective, moots or mock trials?
  • What is the potential role of traditional and social media?

Sunday 30th June.
Which other societal or economic approaches could be fruitful?

Start 10.00 am finish 3.00 pm. 30 minute talks followed by 20 minute discussions

10.10 Grandfalloons – which emission reduction proposals make no sense at all? (Brian Davey)

11. 00 What is needed to get Cap and Share or Cap and Dividend off the ground to keep fossil fuels in the ground? (Laurence Matthews)

11.50 – 12.20 Coffee

12.20 – 1.10 Choice of:

A. Personal carbon allowances for domestic energy demand reduction (Tom Rushby)
B. What other policy packages are needed? (Nick Bardsley)

1.10- 2.10 Lunch

2.10- 3.00 Choice of:

C. How to tackle transport emissions? (Phil Gagg and Chris Gillham)
D. Could behaviour change work and, if so, whose behaviour and how changed? (Milena Buchs)
E. Could commons (shared community ownership) initiatives work? (Skype presentation, Justin Kenrick).

Booking information

Bed and Breakfast accommodation

Details of accommodation

Please email david.knight77@ntlworld.com to reserve your place at this meeting stating which day(s) you would like to attend.

Note: Feasta is a forum for exchanging ideas. By posting on its site Feasta agrees that the ideas expressed by authors are worthy of consideration. However, there is no one ‘Feasta line’. The views of the article do not necessarily represent the views of all Feasta members.