The Climate Emergency is calling for us all to play our part. During COP 26 fortnight, the City Law School is delighted to announce: Four Speakers. Four Ideas. With topics ranging from protecting environmental activists from violence to the greening of commercial finance and from criminalizing climate denial to decolonizing the climate debate itself, our panel offer four very different and thought-provoking ideas on where law can help bring about climate justice and accountability.
Chair: Nikki Walsh, Associate Dean (Global Engagement)
This event forms part of the COP26@City programme, a series of events and actions which demonstrate City’s commitment to reducing our environmental impact and playing our part in responding to the global climate challenge.
COP26 is the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties and this year it will take place in Glasgow between 31 October – 12 November. The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Dr Jesse Elvin, Senior Lecturer, City Law School
‘Should Climate Change Denial Be Criminalised?’
Acknowledging that climate change denial is already arguably fraud in certain national legal systems, depending on the circumstances, I will consider whether criminalisation is appropriate. It could be maintained that climate change deniers potentially cause harm by influencing the beliefs, and therefore, behaviour of others, and that this justifies criminalisation, at least where D is lying or perhaps grossly negligent. However, this matter is not so simple. For instance, the traditional counter-argument to the prohibition of climate change denial is that the marketplace of ideas, and not the criminal law, should determine which ideas prevail and which do not.
Professor Jason Chuah, Professor of Commercial and Maritime Law
‘Making commercial green finance work - do the fundamentals of Contract Law need changing?’
Green financing requires the incorporation of sustainability principles and norms into the financing arrangement. However orthodox and conventional commercial contract law thinking, by placing a premium on legal certainty, does not make this easy. This presentation considers the limits and constraints of current contract law and suggests that the "green" is the new norm in commercial transactions and contract law should therefore respond accordingly. It also asks if this is possible without damaging the well-established structural integrity of contract law.
Ms Andrea Pelliconi, PhD Research Student, City Law School
‘Environmental defenders and why do they matter: Linking anti-Covid restrictions, protest policing and the climate emergency”
Evidence shows that the global health crisis and the climate emergency are two drivers of attacks against environmental defenders. The Covid-19 pandemic was cited by many countries as a reason to weaken environmental and social regulation and increase extractive projects. Governments across the globe have taken advantage of the pandemic to shrink civic spaces and implement legislation restricting the fundamental freedoms association and expression, curbing the right to peaceful protest, increasing surveillance and censorship. In particular, criminal laws are often weaponised to limit the work of climate and environmental activists. As the climate crisis intensifies, violence against environmental defenders, climate change activists, or indigenous communities protecting their land and our planet also increases. In 2020, more than four environmental activists were killed every week, while hundreds were threatened, beaten or arbitrarily detained. Yet critical voices and a lively civic debate are crucial to ensure that private and public actors are held accountable for their shortcomings. This presentation will try to demonstrate how governments and business actors often collude to silence critical voices, why this is relevant to the fight against climate change, and how can this be assessed under human rights law.
Professor Richard Ashcroft, Deputy Dean of the City Law School
“What has the future ever done for me? What did I ever do to the past?: intergenerational obligations in the context of climate change and reparations for Empire”
When we think of future harms to the global North, we may fail to recognise that these are present harms in the global South, and that some of the vulnerability of the global South to such harms is due to actions in the past (and present) by countries in the global North. The debate about obligations to future generations has become too abstract: it needs to recognise that, in the words of William Gibson, echoing Karl Marx, that the future is already here – it is just unevenly distributed. We need to think geographically and historically at the same time.