Guest essay by Eric Worrall
A series of climate lawsuits, which mainly appear to be targeting energy businesses which attempted to appease the green blob, have recently been launched around the world.
According to news.com.au;
New report paves way for individuals to sue companies over climate change
OVER the next few weeks a case will play out that will have executives all over the world very nervous.
Peruvian farmer Saul Luciano Lliuya is suing German energy giant RWE, the self-described “biggest single emitter of CO2” in Europe, for $29,000 over what he claims the company is doing to his hometown.
Lliuya lives near the Andean city of Huaraz, under constant danger from a lake that threatens to flood the town and his house and farm along with it. He has watched the lake grow more than 30 times in volume in the last 40 years as the glacier that feeds it melts, and now wants enough money to engineer a solution.
So far, a letter of complaint to the company has gone unanswered and lawyers claim there is no legal basis for his case. But the farmer, backed by NGO Germanwatch is undeterred, and if successful, the unprecedented case could be the tip of the iceberg.
“It’s sometimes said you can’t do this stuff legally and the reality is that the barriers are political, not legal,” said West Coast Environmental Law Staff Counsel, Andrew Gage.
Despite the difficulty, the idea is gaining momentum in the legal space. Earlier this month the Human Rights Commission of the Philippines announced it would investigate whether fossil fuel companies could be held responsible for climate change following a petition brought to them by Greenpeace over the role of the “carbon majors” in global warming. Australian company BHP Billiton ranks number 19 in a list of major emitters topped by Chevron, ExxonMobil and Saudi Aramco, according to the report.
Greenpeace international executive director Kumi Naidoo said he hoped the decision would inspire other human rights commissions to take part, saying: “If I were a CEO of a fossil fuel company, I would be running scared.”
BHP Billiton would not provide comment on the issue. However the company said it strongly supports efforts to reach the two degree global goal including putting a price on carbon. Their recent portfolio analysis into climate change said the company is working with governments and other groups to reduce emissions and provide energy for a developing world.
I’m not a qualified lawyer, but there appears to be a real risk, especially for businesses which have noisily declared their public support for environmental issues. How can a company plausibly reject a lawsuit for business activity related damage to the environment, when their PR department embraces claims that such damage is occurring?
To paraphrase a well known metaphor, if you sleep with greens, don’t be surprised if you wake up with lawsuits.