Tag Archives: law

Dutch citizens take their government to court for being useless on climate change – And win!!

Yesterday the supreme court of the Netherlands came to a historic landmark verdict: the Dutch government’s lack of strong climate change action was branded illegal.

Organised by the climate campaign group Urgenda, 886 Dutch citizens sued their own government for failing to act in line with climate science, and therefore endangering lives. The Hague ruling used existing human rights laws and tort law – a form of common law that every country has, that refers to the basic duty to avoid causing harm.

Campaigners celebrate the landmark verdict. Image from Urgenda, not mine.

Campaigners celebrate the landmark verdict. Image from Urgenda, not mine.

The judges said that based on existing policies, the country is set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels) at the very most – which was deemed unacceptable considering the severe risks of global climate change, the country’s status as an advanced and affluent state, and the flat and low-lying geography of the country that poses a significant flooding risk.

Yesterday’s ruling has ordered the Dutch Government to instead reduce emissions by at least 25% by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. The verdict is legally binding, Continue reading

Note My Vote!

The other day I found out about this really cool new website called Note My Vote, which basically lets you vote on potential new laws before they’re debated in parliament, and tells your MP what you (and your fellow constituents) think.

The website, which has no political affiliation, basically conducts lots of opinion polls, and sends each MP their constituent’s results. It also shows your MP’s voting records and has some demystifying information on how the UK legislative process works.

The site's logo. Image from notemyvote.co.uk

The site’s logo. Image from notemyvote.co.uk

Continue reading

End ecocide law progressing, help by signing petition

You may have read this article I wrote ages ago on lawyer Polly Higgin’s ecocide law. If you thought it was a good idea then there’s something you can do to help it along.

Please sign this petition to ask the European Parliament to “recognise ecocide as a crime”.
They’re aiming to get a million signatories from people all over the world. They’ll ask for your name, nationality and email address. If you really want to be a star you could also share it on your social networks/in day-to-day life. 

You can learn more about ecocide and why it should be illegal everywhere here. However the basic idea is that ecocide is the extensive destruction of an ecosystem, to the point where the inhabitants (humans and other species) can no longer flourish. Making ecocide illegal wouldn’t make it illegal to do anything harmful to the environment: it’d just cut out the most serious stuff like cutting down the Amazon, burying large amounts of toxic waste, polluting vital rivers and etc.

Polly Higgins is even campaigning for it to be established as the 5th crime against peace, as it almost was in the 90s. Although big corporations will likely object to the movement, there are a lot of supporters including public figures, organizations and 10 nations already have similar laws.

Please sign the above petition, share it and help make ecocide the crime it clearly is.

Wish 20: End Ecocide by 2020, their copyright.

Wish 20: End Ecocide by 2020, their copyright.

The public meeting took place in a beautiful church

Urgent: Last Chance to Stop the Gagging Law

A few months ago I wrote about why we need to Stop the Gagging Bill. Last week I wrote about  how happy I am that my city is officially opposing it. On Thursday I went to a local public meeting about it, where two MPs and two other speakers hashed it out with 300 concerned local people. The meeting was organized by people power group 38 Degrees, and they’ve also got a petition that’s being presented to the House of Lords tomorrow – if you haven’t already, please sign it!

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/page/signup/fix-the-gagging-law#petition  Continue reading

Wish 20: End Ecocide by 2020, their copyright.

Ecocide – The 5th Crime Against Peace

Have you heard of ecocide?

Global Initiative Eradicating Ecocide – chaired and founded by international barrister Polly Higgins – defines ecocide as:

The extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.

Continue reading

USA: Shut Down & Cough Up

Sorry, we're closed. Not my image.

Sorry, we’re closed. Not my image.

On Tuesday 1st October, the USA went into partial shut-down mode. Only federal services considered ‘mandatory’ are now running. These essential services include the air traffic control, social security, some medicare benefits and the postal service. However, 800,000 public employees have been sent home without pay, with no guarantee of returning to their jobs. All the National Parks and the National Zoo are shut. The Environmental Protection Agency’s funding has instantly dried up. Students will have their student loans and grants delayed. Disaster care programs have their funds drastically cut, along with the Women, Infants and Children program that supplies poor families with food and milk tokens. Food inspectors aren’t in operation. NASA have sent most of their employees home. Small businesses cannot receive loans. The dollar has dropped in value.

What’s going on?

Apparently, this has happened because the two warring factions of American politics – the Democrats and the Republicans, simply can’t agree on the budget for the coming financial year. The centrepiece of the argument seems to be ‘Obamacare’ – i.e. Obama’s idea that everyone should be entitled to free healthcare, much like in Britain. For some reason the Republicans are very fiercely against this. So against it, that they simply won’t accept a budget that includes it. But Obama isn’t budging, because he pretty much won the last election by promising to deliver this one service.

Congress have been in negotiation, but they failed to agree on a new budget by the 12am deadline last Monday so now the government has basically ground to a halt.

What’s even more worrying, however, is the problematic fact that the USA is about to reach it’s debt ceiling (that’s how much the government can borrow for public spending) of a staggering $16.4 trillion. Actually, it was reached last year, and the US Treasury have been holding the debt ceiling raise on suspension ever since. The rules surrounding this issue are confusing as hell, but suffice to say that this kind of suspension can only go on for so long. It seems raising this mysterious ceiling is long overdue, and it’s estimated to be reached (again?) on 17th October 2013. After this date, the US government will not be able to borrow any money, and will have just $30,000 billion in ‘cash’ to run the country, This might sound like a lot, but it’s really not at all when you consider that the public spending and debt payments accrue to several billion per day.

You would have thought the Democrats and Republicans would throw their differences to the wayside (temporarily) in a heroic bid to save their country from the threat of bankruptcy and chaos.
I thought Americans were meant to be patriotic?

Well, apparently not enough. Economists are saying the US is on track to shoot through it’s debt ceiling, which means it could possibly default on all or some of its debts. As far as I can tell, this would disrupt international financial markets, causing  economic chaos . The US government might try to revoke the debts of the many nations that have borrowed from them since WWII. This includes the UK, Germany, many other European countries, Japan and countless developing nations. This knock-on effect could cause an international recession at least as serious as the 2008 sub-prime meltdown.

To be honest with you, I have no idea why Congress can’t just get on and raise the debt ceiling. They’re the ones that have the power to set it; it’s just that they’re so divided they can’t even agree on that one fundamental thing.

Seriously, Congress, stop quarreling and sort it out!

Protesters show their outrage outside the White House. Not my image.

Protesters show their outrage outside the White House. Not my image.

Resources:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/29/us-government-shutdown-services-affected
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/25/us-usa-fiscal-debt-idUSBRE98O0LU20130925
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/everything-you-need-to-know-about-how-the-partial-shutdown-will-work-in-us-8850937.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_debt-ceiling_crisis_of_2013
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-24343698

Indonesian rainforest. Not my image.

Local People, Global Forests

Indonesian rainforest. Not my image.

Indonesian rainforest. Not my image.

According to Positive News, the forest dwelling indigenous people in Indonesia may soon have the legal rights to control those forests. This means they would be private property, and the government would cease to have control over them as a national resource. That means the Indonesian government couldn’t sell them to logging companies. It does mean the indigenous people could do so, but the idea is that they’d be much less likely to, seeing as the forests constitute their traditional and historic way of life.

Protection of the Indonesian rainforest is quite obviously an environmental win, but this law would also have a significant human rights side to it. Giving the indigenous people legal control over their forest homes – compared with the mere right to carry on living there – would give these people a greater respect and therefore a better quality of life.

The constitutional court actually already agreed to this on 16th May 2013, but the question is whether it’ll be properly implemented by local government. The logging industry will be fighting tooth and claw against this, as they’re making a tonne of money by chopping down the ancient forests – liquidating the natural capital. But as we know, trees are actually much more valuable while they’re alive. They turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, prevent soil erosion, stabilize the hydrological cycle, reduce the risk of floods and droughts and provide a habitat for millions of species. Luckily the Indonesian government – especially the forward thinking president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – seem to be realizing this at last.

I just hope they can get the logging industry to back off. It’s a dinosaur industry, really. It has no presence in a sustainable future. I mean we’ll certainly continue to cut and use timber, but not on the scale or with the brutal methods of today. True sustainable forestry is a million miles away from the quick cash clear cutting, like huge violent gashes on the landscape.

In Indonesia, their government have identified 365 distinct indigenous ethnic groups, adding up to millions of people. The forested lands they occupy must be quite a considerable amount of hectares, so this new law – if forcefully implemented – could be a big deal for the forests, the local people and the global community of life.

Resources:
http://positivenews.org.uk/2013/environment/13615/indonesian-forests-returned-indigenous-peoples/

http://www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_news?disp3_l205403604_text