Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pacific state Palau seeking an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice

President Johnson Toribiong
of Palau on a coast in Palau
(Image by 
The Pacific Island State of Palau recently announced it will request an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court. Palau would like to know whether countries are legally obliged to mitigate their emissions causing climate change damage elsewhere.

This could prove to be a precedent setter, because this may be world’s first international climate change case if it is taken to court.

Palau's President Johnson Toribiong is asking the ICJ if the “no harm rule” is applicable in the case that their island is sinking due to climate change. The no harm rule is a customary international law that states that state governments have an obligation to prevent harm to other countries, or control the risk there of. In this case environmental harm, namely that the governments of other industrialized countries are allowing corporations to release emissions into the atmosphere (or failing to control such emission). These emissions are contributing to climate change and global warming, melting the ice caps, raising the sea-level, and thus shrinking the livable space on the island, and thus causing harm to the citizens of the island of Palau.

More on this topic can be found here:

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Comparison of U.S. and UK law

U.S. and UK Law Compared 
A comparison of U.S. and UK law arguments with regard to climate change litigation / climate damage litigation was recently published by UK Human Rights. The article contains a Eurocentric overview on the development of the legal debate in the U.S.

Just like the book on UK law by Giedré Kaminskaité-Salters we reviewed earlier, this article also compares how climate change is anchored within many existing laws in Europe but little litigation is actually brought to the courts. In contrast the U.S. has few laws on the subject but many cases, such as:
The article also writes a lot on the subject of the EPA’s role in climate change protection in the U.S. It also talks about UK and European NGOs such as ClientEarth and Friends of Earth.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Punitive damages in BP oil spill case

A patch of oil flats polluting the shore
in Grand Terre Island, Louisiana.
(Photo by Lars Gange)
A judge in charge of several spill-related lawsuits against BP ruled that claims for punitive damages could be brought by fishermen and other plaintiffs alleging harm to physical property, in addition to the claims for compensatory damages.

Punitive damages are awarded to victims in order to penalize offenders and signal future offenders that engaging in similar conduct will occur large penalties. Punitive damages are often multiples times the amounts of the damages the victims occur, thus BP may be liable for more than the damage that they have created, and sends the signal that companies who maliciously disregard similar environmental damage that they create could be penalized with punitive damage cases.

We do not know yet whether this will set a precedent for climate compensation lawsuits.