Climate Law Insider, Newsletter 1/2020

We are pleased to publish the first volume of Carbon & Climate Law Review's monthly newsletter today. As Editors, our objective is to identify, observe and summarise recent developments in climate litigation, legislative procedures of climate laws and multilateral climate governance. Please get in touch if you would like to highlight any interesting developments which you feel we should cover or if you would like to provide feedback on this first volume.

- EU Climate Law -

Last month, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) in the European Parliament voted on the EU Commission’s proposal for the European Climate Law (officially an EU regulation). In its report, the MEPs propose substantial amendments and extensions – five of them are very likely to shape the negotiations between the EU institutions in the coming month: First and most prominently, the MEPs call for a 2030 emissions reduction target of 60%, which differs from the 55% target proposed by Commission’s Executive Vice-President Frans Timmermans a week before. Secondly, concerning the 2050 climate neutrality target, the ENVI MEPs call for an EU-wide and Member State-specific target, whereas the Commission proposal includes only an EU-wide target. According to their amendments, every Member State would have to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest. Third, ENVI calls for the set-up of a permanent, independent, interdisciplinary scientific advisory body, the European Climate Change Council. Fourth, the MEPs systematically integrated the concept of greenhouse gas budgets in their amendments. Like the advisory body, this approach stems from the experience made in the UK with the Climate Change Act from 2008. Finally, there are several procedural changes. In addition to shortened reporting deadlines, the MEPs call for an interim goal in 2040. This proposal is currently linked to the greenhouse gas budget, but could be disentangled from that during the negotiations.

Here’s the EP procedure file with all official documents related to the EU Climate Law legislative process. A timeline of relevant upcoming events related to the EU Climate Law and the EU Green Deal can be found here For a comparison of relevant text passages, see this Twitter thread

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- China’s net-zero by 2060 pledge -

The announcement by China’s President Xi Jinping at the UN General Assembly to set a net-zero target for the year 2060 dominated the climate news last week. As many other net-zero pledges, the announcement lacked important details which would be important to better assess Mr. Xi’s new initiative. Climate Change News’ reporting pointed towards questions of greenhouse gas versus CO2 neutrality, the role and feasibility of a possible coal phase-out in China and implications for other policy fields such as the belt and road initiative. Like in other countries, the actual policy implications of the long-term target should be followed closely. As China emits more than 28% of global emissions and its initiatives are very likely to influence political considerations on the US as the second-largest emitter, as well as emerging economies like India, the importance of these details should not be underestimated. Mr. Xi said: “We aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. We call on all countries to pursue innovative, coordinated, green and open development for all” and highlighted the importance of multilateralism “with the UN at its core”. Based on its calculations, the Climate Action Tracker wrote: “If China were to achieve its announced goal of achieving carbon neutrality before 2060, it would lower global warming projections by around 0.2 to 0.3°C, the biggest single reduction ever estimated by the Climate Action Tracker.”

For the full speech of Mr. Xi, see:

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- First climate case before the European Court of Human Rights -

Children and young adults from Portugal filed a complaint against 33 European countries for failing to do their part to halt the climate crisis They ask the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to find that governments need to take more ambitious action urgently. At the centre of the case lies the question of what constitutes the “fair share” of each country to contribute to the 1.5 °C target as set out in the Paris Agreement, to which all respondent states are parties. The claimants argue that these countries have chosen self-serving interpretations of their “fair share” and adopted emission cuts, which are collectively too weak to stop the climate crisis. They bring forward their right to life, the right to respect for their private and family lives and their right not to be discriminated against, which were interfered with by climate change. They further call on the ECtHR to resolve the uncertainty around the “fair share” interpretation and adopt a more stringent approach in line with the 1.5 °C target. Concretely, they demand an emission reduction by at least 65% by 2030 for the EU, as a whole.

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- Lawsuit against the Spanish government for more ambitious reduction targets -

The victory in the Dutch case of Urgenda, where a court has found that the government had to adopt more ambitious reduction targets to fight climate change, has prompted similar lawsuits all over the world. A coalition of Greenpeace, Oxfam and Ecologists in Action now filed a complaint against the Spanish government before the country’s Supreme Court seeking an order to require the government to take more ambitious climate action While the PSOE-Podemos government had previously declared a “climate emergency” and plans for 70% renewable energy by 2030 – in line with its obligations under EU law – the claimants point to international environmental commitments and criticize that progress is too slow.

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- Climate Litigation in Mexico: Young plaintiffs file a lawsuit against the Mexican Government -

In September 2020, a group of 15 young people from the State of Baja California, between the ages of 17 and 23 years old, filed an unprecedented lawsuit against the Mexican government before a District Court in Administrative Matters. The plaintiffs are seeking that the Mexican government enacts regulations and policies derived from the General Law on Climate Change and the Mexican Constitution. The Judiciary admitted the case on its merits, which according to the lawyers from the NGOs Our Children’s Trust and Defensa Ambiental del Noroeste (DAN), constitutes an important first step in the search for a solid and effective national strategy to combat climate change in Mexico. The claimants argue that the effects of climate change represent a risk to health and access to food and water for Mexicans, a situation that should be read alongside Mexico’s responsibility as an important global emitter. Against these facts, plaintiffs claim the government has an obligation to reduce or mitigate Mexico’s contribution to global climate change and guarantee its people access to a healthy environment as established by their Constitution. This new case builds upon other previous cases Our Children’s Trust supports, which put the rights of youths and new generations in North America at the forefront of discussions. These cases include La Rose v. Her Majesty the Queen in Canada and Juliana v. United States

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- Oxfam Report on Carbon Inequality Attributes CO2 Emissions to Wealthiest in Society -

On 21 September 2020, Oxfam released ‘Confronting Carbon Inequality,’ a report co-authored with the Stockholm Environment Institute, which reveals ‘the extreme carbon inequality in recent decades that has driven the world to the climate brink’. The report uses a cut-off date between 1990 and 2015, a period in which annual emissions grew 60% and cumulative emissions doubled. It shows that the richest 10% of the world’s population were responsible for 52% of the cumulative carbon emissions, whilst the poorest 50% were responsible for just 7% of cumulative emissions. In addition, the report finds that the richest 1% alone were responsible for 15% of cumulative emissions. These disparities confirm that over-consumption by the wealthiest across the globe accelerates the depletion of the global carbon budget at the expenses of the poorest, who are also the worst-hit by the effects of climate change, according to Tim Gore, Head of Climate Policy at Oxfam. In addition, the report stresses that governments can tackle both extreme inequality and the climate crisis if they target the excessive emissions of the richest through taxes and bans on luxury carbon such as SUVs and frequent flights and invest in public services and low carbon sectors to create jobs.

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Kind Regards,

Anne, Juan, and Felix

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