Stephen Eades – Solving Climate Change through the Rule of Law – Sep 19

It is a very easy “Get out of Jail – Free” card for ordinary people to blame politicians for the failure to tackle climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and tropical rainforest destruction. However the truth is that none of us has been prepared to surrender the life we currently enjoy on the back of fossil fuels and the modern methods of food production. So it is us, not politicians alone, who have failed to drive the motor of change.

Now that the ordinary person appears to removing their metaphorical ear plugs and listening to the sound of the alarm bells, what is the best course of action?

To say that “we have no specific policies, we just want the politicians to act” is once again trying to play a “Get out of Jail – Free” card. All actions taken by politicians will have profound consequences in terms of what we can and cannot do and the real questions is : are we prepared to live with these far reaching changes?

To be honest, I do not think any of us have even a small notion of what the sum of these changes will be. The transformation to a net zero carbon world means a revolution in every sphere of life and revolutions, by nature, are unpredictable in their outcomes.

It is these unpredictable outcomes that we are going to have to live with.

So how do we manage the process whereby we come to accept the consequential yet unknown and very profound changes without also ending up rebelling against these too?

The answer I believe is that all these changes have to be firmly founded in law. Law which is passed on the basis of a consensual and, where possible, fully democratic process so that all disputes arising from these changes can be governed by the rule of law. In other words we accept that the legal basis of the decisions which we make is supreme and we thus agree to abide by this process, however unpalatable its prescriptions may be.

In respect of the oceans, covering 70% of the planet’s surface and providing roughly 99% of the living space on the planet and supporting between 50% to 80% of all life itself, it is essential that we reform the UN Law of the Sea so that the natural integrity of the ocean with its myriad ecosystems is supreme, meaning that no human activity of whatever kind take place in the ocean unless it respects the ocean’s natural integrity.

In terms of the ecosystem collapse that climate change and forest destruction creates, it means that ordinary people must require, without equivocation, the establishment of the Crime of Ecocide under the UN Rome Statute. This is the international law which legally enacts the various crimes against humanity and the Crime of Ecocide, which can challenge both corporations and governments to abide by a legal obligation to protect the planet’s ecosystems, so far remains unadopted. This must change, and change now.

All this means that ordinary people engage with the political elective procedures and ensure that the politicians who they elect are genuinely and fulsomely prepared to act in accord with their mandate. And if necessary, ordinary people become the actual politicians who are elected when those they have earlier elected repeatedly fail to deliver. Ordinary people must be prepared to walk the talk.

We can go on listing changes which it is now vital to institute, but the fundamental point is this — all these changes have to be established in law.

When established in law, preferably democratically and consensually, then we have built a basis for the governance of our society upon whose transformation we are now about to embark. This means that as disputes arise as to what is fair and unfair or right and wrong, these disputes are resolvable by legally justifiable means. In short, we have a yardstick and a method of adjudication which we can all abide by as we travel this road with its unknown outcomes.

So as the protests mount on the street it is imperative that the protesters commit themselves, along with all of us at home, to a process where the rule of law is supreme.

If we do not commit to and enlarge the rule of law then it is not climate change that will destroy our civilisation, but ourselves.

Stephen Eades


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