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Rising seas are endangering the habitability and very existence of several small island nations, mostly in the Pacific and Indian oceans. This is the first book to focus on the myriad legal issues posed by this tragic situation: if a nation is under water, is it still a state? Does it still have a seat at the United Nations? What becomes of its exclusive economic zone, the basis for its fishing rights? What obligations do other nations have to take in the displaced populations, and what are these peoples' rights and legal status once they arrive? Should there be a new international agreement on climate-displaced populations? Do these nations and their citizens have any legal recourse for compensation? Are there any courts that will hear their claims, and based on what theories? Leading legal scholars from around the world address these novel questions and propose answers.
20.01The prospect of carbon liability in the United States is a relatively recent phenomenon. It is only in the last decade that US environmental lawyers and policy-makers have begun to turn their attention to climate change, as climate-related litigation has surged, government action on several fronts has begun, and climate change has generally been recognised as a factor to consider in decision-making across the economy. This chapter lays out existing options to establish liability for greenhouse gas (‘GHG’) emissions along legislative, regulatory and judicial channels.
The United States legal system
20.02The United States of America (‘USA’) was founded as a constitutional democracy. Its primary document is the US Constitution, which establishes the absolute rules for how the federal government functions. It has a three-part system: the bicameral legislature (House of Representatives and the Senate, which together form the Congress) passes legislation; the President signs and implements such laws; and the federal court system, guided by the Supreme Court, determines the legality of federal (and some other) activities. In order to execute the law, the President relies heavily on a federal bureaucracy of administrative agencies, which utilise their technical expertise to implement congressional mandates through regulations and thereby create a set of legal rules subsidiary to statutes (laws). In addition to this, federal courts work in a common law system, and so are able to set laws through judicial decision-making.
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