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In recent years, climate citizens’ assemblies – randomly selected representative citizens gathered to make policy recommendations on greenhouse gas emissions targets – have gained in popularity as a potential innovative solution to the failure of governments to design and adopt ambitious climate change laws and policies. This article appraises the process and outcomes of three climate citizens’ assemblies held at the national level – in Ireland, France and the United Kingdom – and evaluates their contributions to the making of climate law and policy. In doing so, it first looks at whether citizens’ assemblies have the ability to improve the substance of climate law and suggests that they face difficulties in providing an integrated, holistic response to the climate problem. It then explores how citizens’ assemblies have fed into subsequent legislative processes to show their positive influence and draws lessons for our understanding of the role of citizens’ assemblies in climate lawmaking.
Children and young people constitute more than one quarter of all plaintiffs in rights-based strategic climate litigation cases filed globally up to 2021. This article examines the implications of this development for children's environmental rights inside and outside the courtroom, relying on the analysis of case documents, media coverage, and the broader literature on strategic climate litigation and children's rights. The article finds that children are well placed to make powerful arguments for intergenerational justice. Conversely, children's rights arguments that address their current-day grievances are under-utilized. More consistent inclusion of these types of claim could strengthen children's environmental rights, clarifying and enforcing legal obligations towards children in the context of the climate crisis as it unfolds. The involvement of children in strategic climate litigation, moreover, can advance the critical role of this demographic as stakeholder in climate solutions. However, the participation of children also raises ethical and practical dilemmas, which are currently poorly understood and only haphazardly addressed.
Climate emergency declarations occupy a legally ambiguous space between emergency measure and political rhetoric. Their uncertain status in public law provides a unique opportunity to illuminate latent assumptions about emergencies and how they are regulated in law. This article analyzes climate emergency declarations in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Aotearoa/New Zealand. It argues that these climate emergency declarations reflect back a set of paradoxes about the legal regulation of emergencies – paradoxes about defining the emergency, how time regulates and contains emergency power, and who gets to respond to the emergency and how. These paradoxes challenge long-held and over-simplified assumptions about emergencies and allow us to see the complex ways in which public law regulates emergencies – a necessity in a climate-disrupted world.
This article categorizes and evaluates how regulatory regimes conceptualize plastics, and how such conceptualizations affect the production, consumption, and disposal of plastics. Taking a doctrinal and policy-oriented approach, it identifies four ‘frames’ – that is, four distinct and coherent sets of meanings attributed to plastics within transnational regulation – namely, plastics as waste to be managed; a material to be prevented; a good (or waste) to be traded freely; and inputs or outputs in production-consumption systems. Based on this analysis, three significant deficiencies in the transnational regulation of plastics are identified: the failure to frame plastics in terms of environmental justice and human rights issues; insufficient focus on plastics prevention (rather than management); and the role of law in reinforcing its production and consumption.
The law of international watercourses consists mainly of a series of bilateral, multilateral, regional, and global agreements that establish binding rules through which state parties jointly manage transboundary water resources. China similarly manages its shared freshwaters through a series of bilateral agreements. Increasingly, however, it relies on non-binding soft law instruments to manage these resources with its riparian neighbours. An important example of this is the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation, a branch of the Belt and Road Initiative. Its use of soft instruments, which recognize international law and promote projects, displays evidence of merging and emerging normativities, ensuring that it is capable of playing both a supporting and a developmental role in the law of international watercourses.
Groundwater is a largely unseen common pool resource. Yet, driven by strong economic incentives, whether or not encouraged by existing policies, and the difficulty to exclude others, groundwater users are competing with each other to extract as much as possible, with devastating consequences for its sustainability. The challenges faced for sustainably managing such common pool resources, on which people have established de facto individual rights, are manifold. However, creating a market for trades of some kind in ecosystem services associated with groundwater could actually enhance the protection of this critical resource on the basis that protection can benefit individual groundwater users economically as well as provide a broader public good. This article uses Elinor Ostrom's design principles as an analytical tool to examine how market-based approaches such as payments for ecosystem services (PES) fit with some of the governance models that could be used to protect and enhance groundwater as a common pool resource. It argues that while there are specific design challenges to be overcome, PES as an institutional tool can align with Ostrom's ideas for the governance of groundwater.
On 26 May 2021, the District Court of The Hague (The Netherlands) passed an innovative judgment in Milieudefensie v. Royal Dutch Shell. The Court interpreted Shell's duty of care towards the inhabitants of the Netherlands as requiring it to mitigate climate change by reducing the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from its global operations by at least 45% by 2030, compared with 2019. This case comment salutes the identification of a corporate duty of care for climate change mitigation but expresses scepticism regarding the Court's interpretation of this duty. The Court's reading of global climate mitigation objectives and climate science, which form the basis of its determination of Shell's requisite level of mitigation action, is plagued with inconsistencies. It is argued here that, in order to determine the standard of care applicable to Shell, the Court should have relied not only on a ‘descending’ reasoning as to what ought to be done, but also on an ‘ascending’ reasoning accounting for industry practices.
This invited response commentary engages with Benoit Mayer's case comment, published in this issue of Transnational Environmental Law, on the recent landmark decision by the District Court of The Hague (The Netherlands) of May 2021 in Milieudefensie v. Royal Dutch Shell. The Court ordered the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell to reduce at least 45% of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared with 2019 levels. In this response commentary I build on and contrast Mayer's examination of how the Court arrived at this target. In doing so, I discuss the normativity of tort law compared with international law against the background of the ideas of Martti Koskenniemi. I conclude that the District Court legitimately qualified Shell's business plans as tortious. The specific reduction target is the result of civil procedural rules on evidence and the debate between the parties. In the light of this analysis, I respectfully reject Benoit Mayer's suggestion that sectoral practices should play a more significant role in determining corporate climate mitigation obligations. In my view, such an approach would be dangerously apologetic and lead to dystopian outcomes.
In her response to my case comment in this issue of Transnational Environmental Law, Laura Burgers purports to disagree with my analysis on two points. Firstly, she suggests that we disagree on the method that a court should use to interpret the duty of care of corporations on climate change mitigation. Secondly, she disagrees with each of the four inconsistencies that I identify in the decision by the District Court of The Hague (the Netherlands) in Milieudefensie v. Royal Dutch Shell. In this rejoinder, I respectfully disagree with her characterization of our disagreement.