This year environmental groups all over the world are collecting millions of signatures on petitions to bring to the Paris climate talks in December. The intention is to prove that ordinary people want their governments to act quickly and seriously. We expect, perhaps naively, that government people who want to be re-elected will see the writing on the wall and will get serious with climate change.
What if those signatures were on class action lawsuits instead? Environmental lawyers are now finding numerous ways to punish governments and polluters who together seem to collude to destroy the only home we have without repercussions. An example is another recent landmark ruling in The Hague, that found that the Dutch government has a duty to protect its citizens from climate change. The old argument that a government can blame neighbouring governments and thus shirk its responsibilities was thrown out.
While we bring our petitions, governments will use the Paris photo op to make great pronouncements about their intentions, then return home and try to implement a plan. Some will intervene in their domestic economy and build strength, creating jobs through the clean tech bonanza. Others will continue to be manipulated by the big fossil fuel companies and drag their feet, being left behind by the rest of the world both environmentally and economically. Someone needs to pay for this environmental and economic neglect of citizens. It might be time for environment groups to create a different kind of carbon bubble, based on class action lawsuits as a first step toward ever more severe punishment.
Here’s the link to the Dutch story.