Extinction Rebellion Making Things Inconvenient? Actually, Says Naomi Klein, the Climate Crisis ‘Is Really, Really Inconvenient’

“There is nothing more inconvenient than being hit by a Category 5 hurricane, by having a wildfire raze your town.”

Writer George Monbiot is arrested by police officers after being arrested in Trafalgar Square on October 16, 2019 in London.
Writer George Monbiot is arrested by police officers after being arrested in Trafalgar Square on October 16, 2019 in London. Activists held an emergency people’s assembly in Trafalgar Square following a ban on Extinction Rebellion protests in London. (Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images)

As Extinction Rebellion activists in London on Wednesday ramped up their latest mobilization with a tenth consecutive day of action, author Naomi Klein pushed back against criticism of the climate protesters and said the climate crisis itself is what’s truly disruptive.

In an interview with Sky News presenter Adam Boulton posted Wednesday, Klein refuted the notion that “a lot of action” to address the climate crisis is “being taken by politicians,” saying their lack of sufficient action is what has drawn youth climate and Extinction Rebellion activists into the streets across the world in recent weeks.

“If standing up against the climate and ecological breakdown and for humanity is against the rules, then the rules must be broken.”
—Greta Thunberg
The interview came as the global mobilization—which has blocked major roads and bridges in their bid to demand greenhouse gas emissions go down to net zero by 2025—staged a number of actions on Wednesday in defiance of a London-wide ban.

Extinction Rebellion has also announced that several affinity groups plan to disrupt Tube services on Thursday. “In any other circumstances,” the group said in a statement, “these groups would never dream of disrupting the Tube but this is an emergency.”

Boulton, in his interview with Klein, said the climate activists put others in a position such that their “route to work is being obstructed” and said XR was “trying to shut down the Tube system.”

“Yes, it’s inconveniencing people,” said Klein. “As somebody who has covered natural disasters that are fueled by climate change for 15 years—there is nothing more inconvenient than being hit by a Category 5 hurricane, by having a wildfire raze your town.”

“Let me tell you how inconvenient it is for the people in Paradise, California, 14,000 of whom lost their homes,” she continued. “Climate change is really, really inconvenient. And so if people have to deal with this inconvenience of some protests in London to get the attention of politicians who have been focused on a singular way on the emergency of Brexit, then so be it.”

London Metropolitan Police this week issued an order banning “any assembly linked to the Extinction Rebellion ‘Autumn Uprising'” within city.

One of Wednesday’s actions was a “people’s assembly” in Trafalgar Square in which roughly 2,500 activists gathered to strategize responses to what they say is the government’s continued inaction on the climate crisis. Among those in the square detained by police was journalist and activist George Monbiot:


Can the world stop ecocide?

In 2005, the world’s states signed up to the doctrine known as the “Responsibility to Protect.” Extending it to environmental crimes, no matter how serious, is unlikely to happen.

Fire in the Amazon

“Given what is at stake with climate change, is it acceptable that a single government can unilaterally adopt environmental policies that put millions at risk?”

This is the question posed by former federal ministers Lloyd Axworthy and Allan Rock in their Globe and Mail op-ed, published in August.

Axworthy and Rock argue that Responsibility to Protect (R2P), the doctrine obligating the international community to intervene in atrocities such as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, should be expanded so it can be invoked when states recklessly endanger the environment. At the root of the argument is the belief that domestic environmental actions can endanger millions of lives. Therefore, the international community should have the means to intervene and prevent such tragedies from occurring. Applying R2P, write Axworthy and Rock, should “at the very least,” allow the international community to impose “an escalating series of denunciations, embargoes and sanctions” against recalcitrant states.

It’s a bold vision. R2P is relatively young and, in terms of being invoked to justify the use of force, relatively untested. Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2005, the doctrine has been used to justify military action just once – in 2011, during the conflict in Libya.

The question is whether expanding the scope of R2P to include severe threats to the environment would be effective. Possibly, but there are significant obstacles.

First, and most challenging, is the requirement that R2P be invoked under UN mandate (i.e., by UN Security Council resolution). This requirement was imposed to prevent individual states from exploiting R2P as a justification for politically motivated interventions. It is also one of the main barriers to R2P’s effectiveness. To take action under R2P, all five permanent members of the UN Security Council (US, UK, Russia, France, and China) must either agree or abstain on a resolution. A single veto is enough to take the resolution off the table. It’s easy to see how this constraint poses considerable challenges to action under R2P (most recently in Syria, for example), and would continue to do so in the environmental context.

Secondly, it is not immediately clear what the international community could do in response to domestic actions seriously endangering the environment, or even what the required threshold would be before invoking R2P. The Responsibility to Protect provides for a sliding scale of responses, culminating in the collective use of force. It is this potential for UN-sanctioned force, in particular, that deters rogue states. But sending in troops of blue-helmeted peacekeepers seems ill-suited to stop forest fires or enforce limits on carbon emissions. R2P could likely be effective in specific circumstances: Axworthy and Rock raise the possibility of imposing sanctions and embargoes. But it is less clear how R2P could be used to impose long-term environmental policies or create a culture of environmentalism.

Finally, how many states would be willing to sign on to such an expansive interpretation of R2P? The vast majority likely signed on to R2P in the first place believing that the doctrine would never be used against them. But it is hard to think of any state with a spotless environmental record, or one that isn’t struggling to balance environmental protection with economic concerns.

Broadening R2P to apply to the environment would undoubtedly be challenging. But the alternative, allowing states to endanger the planet recklessly through destructive environmental policies, is unfathomable. The challenges highlighted above and the idea of using R2P in such a novel fashion may not serve as a solution. But it should be a starting point for the discussion on innovative tools for the international community to use in reacting to environmental disasters, if not preventing them.

The effects of climate change have no respect for sovereignty. Similarly, whatever approach we take in combatting environmental threats must look beyond national borders. SOURCE

Extinction Rebellion protests: Green Party co-leader arrested as protesters win right to fight ‘unlawful’ police ban in court

Climate activists win go-ahead to mount legal action against Metropolitan Police 

The co-leader of the Green Party Jonathan Bartley was among more than 1,500 Extinction Rebellion activists arrested as the group continued its protests in defiance of a police ban.

Activists have been granted the go-ahead for legal action against London’s Metropolitan Police to challenge the public order banning more than two climate activists convening anywhere in the city. The hearing is scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

Politicians, human-rights groups and leading environmental figures including Greta Thunberg have condemned the ban as “unlawful” and “draconian”.

Meanwhile, mothers and babies from the group are blockading the of Google HQ to demand the tech giant stops funding climate deniers, as teenage protesters climb the entrance of Youtube HQ.

Other demonstrators blocked roads around Trafalgar Square, and some protested outside the offices of The Times and The Sun.

Lawyers for Extinction Rebellion submit judicial review of police ban 
Lawyers for Extinction Rebellion have submitted an application for judicial review of the Metropolitan Police’s ban on their protests to the High Court for urgent hearing later today.
Last night Greta Thunberg condemned the Metropolitan Police’s ban of the Extinction Rebellion protests in London as “unlawful”.
“If standing up against the climate and ecological breakdown and for humanity is against the rules then the rules must be broken,” she added.
The 16-year-old climate activist previously spoke at the group’s protests in April.


‘Mr. Delay, Mr. Deny’ and Canada’s precarious climate change future

Both Scheer and Trudeau have much to improve upon when it comes to climate policy; the Liberal government, in particular, is mired in deepening contradictions on environmental matters

PHOTO: Justin Trudeau/via Wikimedia Commons

During the recent federal leaders’ debate, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer only distinguished himself on climate issues by earning the title of “Mr. Deny” from Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democrats.

But Scheer nonetheless had two important insights into environmental issues raised during the campaign.

First, he reiterated the contradictions of the Liberal government’s approach to climate change, noting of Justin Trudeau’s participation in the Sept. 28 climate strike march in Montreal:

“I find it interesting and ironic that Justin Trudeau is actually protesting his own government’s record on the environment.”

Second, he has noticed, correctly, that for the most part, “the largest (industrial) emitters receive an exemption” from the Liberal’s carbon pricing system.

Of course, rather than addressing these contradictions and gaps by strengthening the way the carbon pricing system applies to large industrial polluters, the Conservatives would simply scrap the “job-killing” carbon pricing system altogether.

That, as Trudeau rightly pointed out, would remove the central element of Canada’s strategy for meeting its obligations under the Paris climate change agreement and effectively replace it with—if based on the feeble contents of the Conservatives’ own climate strategy so far—nothing.

At the same time, Scheer promises to use long-dormant Constitutional powers to override provincial and Indigenous objections to a national energy corridor that seems designed to cement Canada’s role as a high-carbon export economy for decades to come.

Separatism revival?

PHOTO: Andrew Scheer/Andre Forget via Wikimedia Commons

It’s difficult to imagine a better strategy for reviving the otherwise moribund separatist movement in Quebec given the strength of the objections to the proposed Energy East pipeline throughout the province.

That said, Scheer’s observations about the Liberal government’s contradictions on the climate file emphasize the point that the approval, then the $4.5 billion purchase, then re-approval of the Alberta-to-Vancouver Trans Mountain pipeline has become a millstone around the Trudeau government’s neck when it comes to appealing to progressive voters.

The defection of those voters to Singh’s NDP and Elizabeth May’s Greens threatens Trudeau’s majority government, and perhaps his ability to form a government at all.

Ironically, with the exception of the Trans Mountain pipeline question, the government’s record on the environment and climate change, although not perfect, is certainly respectable.

Trudeau’s Liberals have done more than any previous federal government to implement effective policy measures to reduce GHG emissions. They achieved a federal-provincial near-consensus (only Saskatchewan and Manitoba refused to sign) on the December 2016 Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change.

In the aftermath of that agreement, which included commitments by all provinces to adopt some form of carbon pricing, Trudeau has stood remarkably firm in the face of opposition from newly elected Conservative premiers in Ontario, Alberta and New Brunswick.

The federal carbon pricing backstop is now being implemented in whole or in part in six provinces and all three territories. It was originally expected that, under the Pan-Canadian Framework, all of the provinces would implement their own carbon pricing systems. A major federal role in the process was never anticipated.

To its credit, Trudeau’s government has applied the federal backstop as provinces abandoned their commitments under the Pan-Canadian Framework and dismantled their own carbon pricing systems.

The government’s support for the Trans Mountain project was grounded in a deal with former Alberta premier Rachel Notley, exchanging a federal commitment to pursue a pipeline to tidewater for Alberta’s constructive engagement in a national climate change strategy.

Fair trade-off

This was, arguably, a reasonable trade-off. Alberta’s refusal to engage in discussions of serious climate change policies had been the key stumbling block in more than two decades of efforts to formulate an effective national climate change strategy following the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at the Rio Conference in 1992.

Notley’s NDP government was initially true to its word and did engage seriously on the climate change issue. It participated in the 2016 Pan-Canadian Framework, implemented a carbon tax in Alberta, initiated a phaseout of coal-fired electricity and launched major strategies around energy efficiency and renewable energy.

None of these things can be said of Notley’s successor, Jason Kenney, who as leader of the United Conservative party became the premier of Alberta in April.

Rather, Kenney has made a point of shredding Notley’s climate change strategy, particularly the carbon tax. Kenney has signalled his intention to join the quixotic challenges by Ontario and Saskatchewan to the federal carbon pricing system to the Supreme Court of Canada.

He’s also challenging the federal government’s new environmental assessment legislation, Bill C-69.

The situation begs the question: If Alberta has walked away from its part of the bargain, why is Trudeau—dubbed “Mr. Delay” by Singh in the debate—still trying to move the Trans Mountain project forward?

Why not put pipeline on hold?

Wouldn’t it have been a better political and climate change strategy to put the pipeline on hold until Kenney agrees to re-engage, in a serious and constructive manner, on climate change?

The political cost of such an approach appears to be low. Trudeau’s continued support for the project seems to be winning him few friends in Alberta anyway. At the same time, it would have given the Liberal leader a much stronger response to his Green and NDP challengers.

It would have also provided a better justification for joining Greta Thunberg’s climate strike—Trudeau could have argued he was protesting the governments of Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick and their refusal to take the issue seriously.

The future of Canada’s first serious attempt and—as May pointed out during the debate, potentially last opportunity—to actually implement an effective national climate change strategy now hangs in the balance on Oct. 21.

The Liberal government’s deepening contradictions on energy and environmental matters has played no small part in creating the precarious situation in which Canada now finds itself.

Future generations may well be justified in saying, as Thunberg recently did in her speech to the United Nations: “We will never forgive you.” SOURCE

Green Party Of Canada Action Plan Calls For Plant Waste Biofuels

On October 2, 2019, the Green Party of Canada commented, via a press release, on its Green Climate Action Plan called “Mission: Possible.”

Aiming to exceed the U.S. Green New Deal, under this plan, the Green Party outlines a 20-step action plan to achieve the goal of zero emissions by 2050.

Part of the strategy outlined emphasizes the idea that heavy-duty industrial machinery will need to rely on biofuels. Although the plan is to ban internal combustion engines and ensure that cars, buses, and trains are powered by electricity by 2030, biofuels will still be needed for fishing, mining, and forestry equipment.

According to the plan, these biofuel needs will be addressed through the creation of biofuels using waste plant matter from forests and agriculture — and only plant-based biofuels.

Claiming that food that would otherwise be used to feed Canadians, the Green Party highly opposes food-based biofuels.

Its plan, therefore, promotes development of local, small-scale biodiesel production that would rely primarily on used vegetable fat from restaurants across Canada, along with wood and agricultural waste. Fuel switching to biodiesel would be required for agricultural, fishing, and forestry equipment. SOURCE

Commentary by Elizabeth May: We must end our reliance on fossil fuels

a10 10152019 green-may.jpgGreen Party Leader Elizabeth May speaks at the federal leaders’ election debate on Thursday in Gatineau, Que. Oct. 10, 2019 Photograph By CHRIS WATTIE, THE CANADIAN PRESS

“Humanity is conducting an unprecedented, uncontrolled globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to global nuclear war.”

That was the opening sentence to the consensus finding of international scientists gathered for the first global climate conference, “Our Changing Atmosphere; implications for global security.”

It was held in a heat wave, in the last week of June 1988, in Toronto. As senior policy adviser to the minister of environment, I helped organize that conference.

I was optimistic. We had public attention. Two prime ministers (Canada and Norway) addressed the conference. We kick-started the launching of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the negotiations leading to the foundation framework treaty on the threat of global warming.

Is it a gift or a curse to be prevented from seeing the future?

Had I imagined then that more than 30 years later we would still be arguing about when we should get started in earnest, I do not know how I could have handled the horror of it.

It is a slow-motion horror. In June 1992, every nation on Earth committed at the Rio Earth Summit, in a legally binding treaty, to reduce greenhouse gases such that we could avoid levels of climate change that could be “dangerous.” Instead, between 1992 and now, humanity has burned more fossil fuels, emitting more greenhouse gases, than between the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and 1992.

In other words, well past the point that we understood human-caused climate change to be a major threat to our future, we put our foot on the gas to amplify the risk.

No wonder Greta Thunberg is shaking with rage. So am I.

…It is clear to me that two major obstacles blocked our progress. One was the well-funded campaigns of Big Oil to lie to us about the science. The other was the perennial problem of short-term political thinking, always seeking partisan advantage. We must set aside partisanship. I am calling for the equivalent of a “war cabinet” to ensure a non-partisan approach to our survival.

Holding to no more than a 1.5 degrees C global average temperature increase is not a political target. That goal, agreed to by all the nations in Paris, is not negotiable. We cannot negotiate with physics. It is now Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advice that shooting past 1.5 degrees means that children alive today are unlikely to have a functional human civilization through their lives. Shooting past 2 or 3 degrees means that the hospitality of this planet for lifeforms like us is very much in doubt.  MORE

Opinion: Fossil-fuel workers ready to support energy transition

Lliam Hildebrand, is the executive director of Iron and Earth, an oilsands worker-led group that is calling for training and opportunities to work on renewable energy projects to assist the Alberta economy. File photo. SHAUGHN BUTTS / EDMONTON JOURNAL

Except for an isolated pocket of skeptics, there is now an almost universal acceptance that climate change is a global emergency that demands immediate and far-reaching action to defend our home and future generations. Yet in Canada we remain largely focused on how the crisis divides us rather than on the potential for it to unite us.

It’s not a case of fossil-fuel industry workers versus the rest, or Alberta versus British Columbia. We are all in this together. The challenge now is how to move forward in a way that leaves no one behind.

The fossil fuel industry has been — and continues to be — a key driver of Canada’s economy. Both of us had successful careers in the energy sector, but realized, along with an increasing number of energy workers, that the transition we need to cope with climate change could not be accomplished solely from within the industry.

Even as resource companies innovate to significantly reduce the carbon burden of each barrel, the total emission of greenhouse gases from all sources continues to rise. We must seize the opportunity to harness this innovative potential in alternative and complementary ways, mobilizing research and development, for example, to power carbon-intensive steelmaking and cement manufacture from hydrogen or to advance hybrid energy storage systems — the potential for cross-over technology is immense.

The bottom line is inescapable: we must reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in order to prevent runaway global warming, which is why we launched Iron & Earth in 2016. Led by oilsands workers committed to increasingly incorporating renewable energy projects into our work scope, our non-partisan membership now includes a range of industrial trades and professions who share a vision for a sustainable energy future for Canada — one that would ensure the health and equity of workers, our families, communities, the economy, and the environment.

An important aspect of the transition away from fossil fuels is that our nation’s energy-sector workers are ideally positioned to help build a vibrant and globally competitive clean-energy sector. This is because fossil-fuel infrastructure has a similar industrial “DNA” to sustainable-energy infrastructures, such as biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydrogen and many other large-scale steel infrastructure projects. Thus, these projects require many of the same skill sets, the kind of attributes found in abundance in our oil and gas workforce.

A 2016 survey by Iron & Earth of skilled trades workers primarily with experience in the energy industry showed that 63 per cent believed their current skill set could be transferred to build and maintain a renewable energy future with some training, and 86 per cent expressed interest in training and development in renewables.

We need more than incremental change; we need planning and action on a scale and pace we haven’t seen since the Second World War when Canada massively retooled our economy to fight tyranny; we need to once again unite in common purpose to retool, re-invent and re-invigorate our industrial sector in defence of our collective future.

The lead must come from whichever party forms the next government. It will take unparalleled courage and political leadership motivated by an understanding that addressing climate change, while also developing our energy industry, doesn’t have to divide the country. Our only shot at avoiding the very worst of the climate emergency is if we do this together. MORE


Jason Kenney’s Government Won’t Meet With Greta Thunberg During Her Alberta Visit

Bernie Wants You to Own More of the Means of Production

Bernie Sanders just released a landmark plan to shift ownership and control of the US economy away from the very affluent and towards workers and the public.

Bernie Sanders speaks to a crowd of supporters at a campaign rally on July 18, 2015 in Phoenix, AZ. Charlie Leight / Getty

ernie Sanders released a proposal today that would gradually shift 20 percent of corporate equity into funds owned and controlled by the workers in each company. The plan, which would apply to all publicly-traded companies and large closely-held companies, would move 2 percent of corporate stock into worker funds each year for a decade. Once the shares are transferred into the funds, workers would begin receiving dividends and have the ability to exercise the voting rights of the shares, including the right to vote on corporate board elections and on shareholder resolutions.

Sanders’s plan is by far the most radical worker ownership proposal put forward by a presidential candidate in recent memory. By last count, the market value of publicly-traded domestic companies stood at $35.6 trillion. This means that the Sanders plan would shift at least $7.1 trillion of corporate equity into worker funds by gradually diluting the value of previously-issued corporate stock.

Those who stand to “lose” from the proposal are the incumbent owners of corporate equity, which are overwhelmingly affluent people. At present, the top 10 percent of families own around 86.4 percent of corporate equities and mutual fund shares, with the top one percent owning 52 percent by themselves. Closely-held businesses, which will also be affected by the scheme if they are large enough, have similarly concentrated ownership, with the top 10 percent of families owning 87.5 percent of private business equity and the top one percent of families owning 57.5 percent of it.

Of course, these incumbent owners will not actually lose anything in an absolute sense. The average historical return of the US stock market has been 9.8 percent per year, while the average return of the last 10 years has been just over 13 percent. The effect of the two percent share issuances is to knock the total rate of return down by two percentage points, meaning that incumbent owners still get richer year-over-year, just less so than they would absent the Sanders plan.

The Sanders proposal largely mirrors an idea first presented by Mathew Lawrence that was recently adopted by Jeremy Corbyn and the UK Labour Party. In the Labour Party version of the plan, large UK corporations are required to transfer one percent of corporate equity into “Inclusive Ownership Funds” (IOFs) for ten years, which would effectively shift 10 percent of corporate equity into worker funds. As in Sanders’s plan, UK workers would receive dividends from the IOFs and exercise the voting rights of the equity owned by the funds.

Both the Sanders and Corbyn plans are rooted in a longer market socialist tradition most commonly associated with the Swedish labor movement and Swedish labor economist Rudolf Meidner. Meidner’s 1978 book laid out a plan that would have used similar share issuances (often called “share levies” or “scrip taxes”) to gradually bring Swedish corporations under the ownership of sector funds controlled by unions and communities. A policy based on Meidner’s plan was successfully implemented in the 1980s but the unrelated electoral defeat of the Swedish Social Democratic Party in the 1991 elections caused the policy to be scrapped before reaching its full potential.

Sanders’s new worker funds plan fits neatly alongside other elements of his reformist democratic socialist platform, including the nationalization of the US health insurance industry and the enormous expansion of federally-owned power companies as part of his Green New Deal. Taken together, these and other Sanders policies would significantly shift the ownership and control of the US economy away from the very affluent and towards workers and the public more generally. SOURCE

AOC’s Endorsement of Bernie Makes Perfect Sense

No one should be surprised by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders — just like Sanders, she has continually challenged the neoliberal status quo.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wave to the crowd at the end of a campaign rally in Wichita, Kansas on July 20, 2018. (J Pat Carter / Getty Images)

Last month, the New York Times published a story that portrayed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as a politician who’s learning that she’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar. “Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has tempered her brash, institution-be-damned style with something different: a careful political calculus that adheres more closely to the unwritten rules of Washington she once disdained,” the article read.

Ocasio-Cortez bristled at the portrayal. On Twitter she wrote, “There will always be powerful interest in promoting the idea that the left is losing power 1 way or another. The big way they try to dismantle the left isn’t to attack it, but to gaslight & deflate it.” She accused the article of “dripping condescension.”

She’s right: this is the moneyed centrist playbook. See how they’ve covered Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign. Unable to characterize him as a naif getting a reality check, the mainstream media has resorted to repeatedly claiming that his campaign is dead in the water — despite the fact that his polling numbers remain consistent and that he’s been breaking all-time fundraising records.

The angle of attack on Sanders is different, but the goal is the same: demoralize and diminish the Left by declaring the battle over already.

It was already unfair to dub Ocasio-Cortez another would-be reformer who’s capitulated to the conservatizing pressures of the Democratic Party establishment. She has continually challenged the neoliberal status quo, especially in the realm of policy. Her Green New Deal legislation is phenomenally ambitious, as is the new suite of bills she’s calling “A Just Society.”

And last night, news broke that proves that she’s still bucking the pro-corporate Democratic Party consensus: according to the Washington Post, Ocasio-Cortez will endorse Sanders for president this weekend, as will Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. So much for conciliation with the status quo. MORE


Climate Change: An Appeal to the UN Committee on the Rights of Children

Image result for resilience: Climate Change: An Appeal to the UN Committee on the Rights of Children

On the day Greta Thunberg gave her emotion-filled speech at the United Nation’s (UN) Climate Summit, another historic event involving the Swedish activist and 15 other youthful climate hawks—representing 12 countries–took place. The filing of the first-ever legal complaint about climate change to the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child. The communication is titled Sacchi et al. vs. Argentina, et al.

Like the plaintiffs in the case of Juliana vs. US, the young petitioners—all ranging in age between 8 and 17—are seeking to protect themselves and future generations from the harsh consequences of global climate change. Impacts like extreme droughts and rising sea levels that most of the world’s scientists have been warning of for decades; warnings that have gone mostly unheeded in terms of needed state actions.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands, home to three of the petitioners, formally declared a National Climate Crisis on September 30, 2019. A low lying archipelago in the southern Pacific Ocean, portions of the Marshall Islands were the site of 67 nuclear weapons tests by the United States, including the 15-megaton Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb test that produced significant fallout in the region.

Having survived those tests, the Marshall Islands now face the prospect of being uninhabitable by 2050—swallowed by the waters that have sustained its populations for hundreds of centuries. Its 29 atolls average only 6.5 feet above sea level.

The petition—or communication as it is termed—was filed with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (Committee or CRC) that was established under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The Committee monitors the implementation of the Convention that protects the human rights of children around the globe.

The convention was signed by every country in the world, save for the United States. Of the 196 signatories, 45 have agreed to the Third Optional Protocol, allowing children to petition the UN directly about treaty violations. The five respondent nations named in the communication—Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey—are among the 45. The named respondents are aware of the causes and consequences of global warming, emitters of greenhouse gases, and signatories of the Paris Accord.

The UN Committee on the Rights of Children is comprised of 18 independent experts elected by the states that oversee the operation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its parties. When countries ratify the CRC, they accept that they:

  • are bound by its clauses;
  • have a duty to incorporate its provisions into their domestic laws;
  • must subject themselves to the scrutiny and jurisdiction of the CRC.

The communication filed with the Committee is quite similar in content to the pleadings filed by the Juliana plaintiffs in the US Federal District Court for Oregon. It offers a science-based description of the causes of climate change and references some of the impacts, e.g., forest fires, lost food sources, insect-borne diseases, permanently inundated coastlands, more violent and frequent weather-related events, etc.

The communication is careful to point out that the consequences of Earth’s warming are being suffered now and states they will only get worse if nations don’t increase current efforts. It introduces the petitioners and describes specific harms they have already experienced:

In the Marshall Islands, Petitioner Ranton Anjain contracted dengue fever in 2019, now prevalent in the islands, and Petitioner David Ackley III contracted chikungunya, a new disease there.

In Cape Town, South Africa, drought has made Petitioner Ayakha Melithafa’s family, and 3.7 million other residents prepare for the day municipal water supplies run dry.

According to the communication, the respondent nations have contributed to the climate crisis with their past emissions and are failing to put themselves on a pathway consistent with keeping the climate’s temperature rise under 2.0 degrees Centigrade over the 21st century. The failure of the named respondents is essentially the failure of all nations, including the signatories on the Paris climate accord. The pledged reductions are inadequate to the task of achieving both the aspirational 1.5 degrees and the agreed-upon 2.0 degrees Celsius targets.

The cumulative sum of the respondents’ historical emissions shows that they are major emitters, responsible for a significant share of today’s concentration of GHGs in the atmos-phere. Each of the respondents ranks in the top 50 historical emitters since 1850, based on fossil fuel emissions: Germany ranks 5th, France 8th, Brazil 22nd, Argentina 29th, and Turkey 31st. When land-use, such as deforestation, is factored in, Brazil surpasses France in its historical share.

Establishing the reality of climate change and identifying actual harms suffered by the petitioners at the hands of the respondents by their delay in taking the steps necessary to decarbonize their economies are preludes to the central point of the petition. The communication alleges that the respondents have shifted the enormous burden and costs of climate change onto children and future generations.

The relief requested in the petition is a series of findings by the Committee. The primary finding being asked for is a declaration that climate change is a children’s rights crisis. Also requested are findings that the respondent nations have knowingly disregarded the science-based evidence of the causes, consequences, and remedial steps necessary to protect children everywhere from the ravages of climate change.

The petitioners are also asking the Committee to recommend to the respondent nations that they amend their laws and policies to make the best interests of the children a primary consideration when allocating the costs and burdens of climate change mitigation and adaptation. The petitioners are further requesting the Committee to encourage the respondents to provide for the direct access of children and their representatives to the decisionmaking process where they would have the right to express their views freely. MORE


To Fight For Their Right to Life, Alaskan Kids Take Climate Change to the Supreme Court