Prominent scientists and lawyers have said that the UK government’s decision to ignore the Paris climate accord when deciding on major infrastructure projects undermines its presidency of the UN climate talks this year.
Experts, including former NASA scientist Jim Hansen, former UK government chief scientist Sir David King, and economist Professor Jeffrey Sachs, have written to ministers and the Supreme Court about a recent decision that the government does not need to assume UK obligations under the law. dealt with in setting the policy, made in a case involving the proposed Heathrow Airport expansion.
Green activists took the government to court in 2019 over its decision to allow Heathrow expansion, arguing that the increase in air travel it would allow was inconsistent with the UK’s obligations under the Paris agreement to try to maintain the global warming well below 2 ° C above. Pre-industrial levels.
The appeals court agreed in February 2020 that the government should have taken the Paris targets into account, but the supreme court reversed that ruling last December.
The UK will host the Cop26 Summit in Glasgow in November, seen as one of the last opportunities to steer the world towards achieving the Paris goals.
“The UK’s highest court has set a precedent that major national projects can move forward even when they are inconsistent with maintaining the temperature limit on which our collective survival depends,” says the letter, signed by more than 130 scientists. , legal and environmental experts. .
“In fact, the precedent goes further. He says the government is not even obliged to consider the goals of a deal that is almost universally agreed upon. That doesn’t just undermine the UK’s status as champion of the Paris agreement just before Cop26. It also substantially reduces humanity’s prospects of maintaining that limit and thus avoiding disaster. “
The letter urges the government and the supreme court to rethink. “We remind the court of its own obligations under the 1998 Human Rights Act to safeguard the right to life. That means taking all reasonable steps to ensure respect for the entire Paris agreement. “
Tim Crosland, the director of Plan B, the campaign group that brought the original case, has been the subject of contempt of court proceedings as he revealed the supreme court ruling at an early stage, and the letter also refers to to your case.
“With all the stakes at stake in the UK and beyond, we urge the court to take appropriate steps to mitigate the profound damage his sentence has caused and to consider Tim Crosland’s actions in this light,” he states.
King told The Guardian that he was particularly concerned about Crosland’s treatment and its implications for protest and dissent, amplified by the police and crime bill that is now passing through parliament and that could ban most of the forms of public demonstration.
“It is extremely worrying, as we are proud that Britain has developed a true democracy,” he said. “Any democracy needs to give voice to dissent. There is a real danger that we are going down a path that takes us away from democracy ”.
Sachs said, “The idea that [government] Decisions must be consistent with the Paris agreement is a general principle for the world, and the world expects this year the UK for leadership at Cop26. The rather casual way in which the Supreme Court said that the Paris agreement was not a determining factor is very concerning. The courts should compel governments to honor the commitments made in Paris. “
The UK government is stepping up its preparations for Cop26 this week with two ministerial conferences: one on climate and development, which brings together donor governments and countries most vulnerable to climate collapse to discuss climate finance; and one with the International Energy Agency, which encourages countries to design sound policies to achieve net zero emissions.
However, a number of recent government actions have raised concerns among environmental activists and experts. Plans for a new coal mine received the green light this year, until controversy forced the government to order a public inquiry. New licenses were issued this month for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, and over the weekend the government scrapped its main green recovery measure, granting green homes for low-carbon insulation and heating.
Meanwhile, the UK’s decision to cut spending on foreign aid has also raised concerns. Achim Steiner, UN chief of development, said in an interview with The Guardian: “It sends a very mixed signal and is very worrying to developing countries. It certainly does not increase the confidence with which developing countries come to the table. “
A group of environmental activists wrote to the government calling for a rollback. Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, CEO of Christian Aid, said: “In the year of Cop26, as a significant host and broadcaster, all eyes are on the UK to lead the world in stepping up climate action ambition.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism