The synergies between the Paris Agreement and the SDGs: An opportunity for national governments to achieve key climate targets

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Dr Noah A. Izoukumor, Member of the Environmental Law and Sustainability Research Group

Introduction

The Paris Agreement (PA) was adopted on the 12th of December 2015.[1] The central aim of the PA is to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels or even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.[2] To achieve this aim, Parties to the PA made individual commitments through their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The ‘NDCs, are actions that Parties to the PA plan to undertake to address climate change’ at the national level.[3] Most of the initial NDCs made commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030.[4]

 In 2015, the same year the PA was adopted, the United Nations also adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace the Millennium Development Goals.[5] The SDGs are 17 aspirational goals and 169 associated targets. The SDGs are also meant to be achieved by 2030.

In other words, both the PA and SDGs were adopted in 2015, and the targets and obligations were to be achieved by 2030.[6] This raises some critical questions about whether it is possible to align the obligations of the PA with key related SDGs, or is it possible to achieve key SDGs targets that are linked with the PA simultaneously since both targets are meant to be achieved by 2030?  On the contrary, it was argued that how the alignment of the PA with the SDGs is possible considering that the SDGs and the PA are two separate instruments.[7]  In this research blog, the aim is to briefly assess the possibility of the alignment between PA obligations with key SDGs, and the key benefits of such alignments at the national level.

Are there synergies between climate change and the SDGs?  

There is emerging research on the integration of climate change and the SDGs.[8]  Nerini and others elaborated on the possible alignment of climate change and SDGs. They acknowledged that in most countries, climate change and sustainable development remain separated.[9] According to them, ‘capitalizing on synergistic actions can enable both sets of objectives to be met more quickly, efficiently and effectively.’[10] 

Antwi-Agyei and Dougill investigated the alignment of SDGs and NDCs.[11] They examined NDCs submitted by 11 West African states and their link to key SDGs.[12] Their investigation shows the strong commitment of West African countries to food security which can be aligned with related SDGs.[13] They argued that this alignment provides opportunities for national development on the low carbon pathway.[14] 

Also, a critical assessment of the provisions of the PA and the SDGs unveils that there is a synergy between the PA and some of the SDGs. For instance, SDG targets 15.2 and 15:3 deal with combating desertification and sustainable management of all forests. These targets 15.2 and 15:3 of the SDG are related to Article 5 (2) of the PA, which emphasised sustainable forest management practices. Also, SDG targets 7:1 and 7:2 deal with the development of renewable energy. These targets have a direct link with Article 10 (1) (2) Paris Agreement which emphasised the development of technology.

The above examples show that there is a link between the PA and some key SDGs. The implication of the relationship between the PA and the key SDGs is that the achievement of the targets of the PA could lead to the achievement of related SDGs targets. So, the next question is what the likely benefits of the synergies between the PA and the SDGs are.  

The benefits of synergies between the PA and SDGs

The synergies between the PA and key SDGs present an opportunity to collaborate amongst key relevant climate change Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), and SDG implementation agencies.[15] Recent development in countries like Mexico, Colombia, and Vietnam show how MDAs and SDG implementation agencies can collaborate and implement key related targets in both SDGs and PA.

In 2017, three MDAs in Mexico collaborated to implement SDG and NDC targets.[16] The office of the President of Mexico, which is responsible for the SDG implementation, the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, and the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change which are responsible for the NDC support close coordination of SDG and NDC implementation.[17] Also, in Japan, there is a well-coordinated institutional arrangement of SDG and NDC implementation. Relevant institutions for the implementation of SDG and NDC are led by the Global Warming Prevention Headquarters, chaired by the prime minister, including relevant cabinet ministers.[18] In Colombia, an Inter-Agency Commission is established to implement the Post-2015 Development Agenda.[19] In Vietnam, a National Council for Sustainable Development and Competitiveness Enhancement and a working group of the Council were established. These two organisations are to address key achievable SDGs that are linked to climate change.

Again, the nexus between the PA and key SDGs will enable key climate change-related MDAs to match budgets and channel funds to key priority areas such as the energy and forest sectors. This is exactly what the Mexican government did where MDAs were requested to match budget programmes to the top priority areas of SDG and national goals.[20]

However, there are key challenges to the alignment between PA and SDGs. First, climate change instruments and the SDGs agenda have their respective histories and already established implementation agencies in different sectors.[21] This means there are likely issues of functional overlap among ministries while implementing interlinkages. Second, the alignment could lead to a trade-off with perceived unaligned SDGs.[22] This means that national governments may give less attention to SDGs that are not directly linked to climate change obligations, such as SDG 4, which talks about free education.

Despite the likely challenges, it is argued that the benefit of aligning the PA and the SDGs cannot be overemphasised. The alignment presents an opportunity for national government agencies to collaborate, and channel funds to key related targets in both PA and key SDGs. The collaboration will enable both sets of objectives to be met more quickly, efficiently, and effectively.[23] 

References


[1]L Rajamani, ‘The Warsaw climate negotiations: emerging understandings and battle lines on the road to the 2015 climate agreement’(2014) 63(3) International & Comparative Law Quarterly 721-740; L Rajamani, ‘The Durban platform for enhanced action and the future of the climate regime’ (2012) 61 (2) International & Comparative Law Quarterly,  501-518.

[2] Article 2 UN General Assembly, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change/ Adopted at the COP 21 in Paris, France, 12 December 2015 FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev.1 accessed 1st April 2022.

[3] FZ Taibi and S Konrad, Pocket Guide to NDCs under the UNFCCC (ECBI 2018) 1-2.

[4] For instance, the EU and its member states committed to a domestic reduction of 40% by 2030. See Intended Nationally Determined Contribution of the EU and its Member States (2015) available at  LV-03-06-EU INDC (unfccc.int)> Accessed  2nd April 2022.

[5]Millennium Development Goals and beyond 2015 < United Nations Millennium Development Goals > Accessed 6th April 2022.

[6] However, net zero emission is possible by 2050 and most countries have updated their NDCs in line with 2050 deadline. See The update of the nationally determined contribution of the European Union and its Member States available at EU_NDC_Submission_December 2020.pdf (unfccc.int) Accessed  7th  April 2022.

[7] Paragraph 55. UN General Assembly, transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 21 October 2015, A/RES/70/1.; K. Shamin and R Kibugi, ‘Brief on Sustainable Development Goal 13 on Taking Action on Climate Change and Its Impacts: Contributions of International Law, Policy and Governance’ (2017) 13 McGill Journal on Sustainable Development Law 183.

[8] P Antwi-Agyei and others, Identifying Opportunities for Coherence between the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, and the Sustainable Development Goals:  The Case of ECOWAS Member States (Sustainability Research Institute School of Earth and Environment 2017) 5; The State of The World’s Forest, Forest Pathway to Sustainable Development, (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2018) 100-107, available at < http://www.fao.org/3/I9535EN/i9535en.pdf > Accessed 2nd April 2022; Climate Change and SDG Synergy Conference, Background Paper Leveraging Climate Change and SDG Interlinkages: Country Experiences (TERI School of Advanced Studies for UN DESA 2019) available at < https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/22155Background_PaperTERILeveraging_Climate_Change_and_SDG_Interlinkages.pdf > Accessed 2nd April 2022 ; Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,  Climate-smart agriculture Sustainable Development Goals, Mapping interlinkages, synergies and trade-off s and guidelines for integrated implementation (Food       and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Rome, 2019) 84-101 available at<  http://www.fao.org/3/ca6043en/ca6043en.pdf  > Accessed 2nd  April 2022; V Masson-Delmotte,  T Waterfield and others (eds), Summary for Policymakers. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty (IPCC 2018)  19 -20, available at https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/sites/2/2019/05/SR15_SPM_version_report_LR.pdf > Accessed 3rd April 2022.                

[9]  F Nerini and others , ‘Connecting climate action with other Sustainable Development Goals’ (2019) 2 (8) Nature Sustainability, 674-680 at 678.

[10] Ibid.

[11] P Antwi-Agyei and A Dougill, How best to align planning for Nationally Determined Contributions and Sustainable Development Goals:  West African Lessons (Sustainability Research Institute School of Earth and Environment 2018) 2.

[12] Ibid .

[13] Such as SDGs 1, 2, 6, 7, 13 and 15. Ibid .

[14] Antwi-Agyei and others (n 11).  

[15] M Bouyé, S Harmeling and NS Schulz , Connecting the dots: Elements for a joined-up implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit 2018) 16; Sustainable Development Goal Knowledge Platform, Global Conference on Strengthening Synergies between the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: Maximizing Co-Benefits by Linking Implementation across SDGs and Climate Action (United Nations 2019) at 50 available at <https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/climate-sdgs-synergies2019 > Accessed 6th April 2022.

[16]  Bouyé and others (n 15).

[17] Ibid.  

[18] Sustainable Development Goal Knowledge Platform (n 15).

[19] OECD, Opening of the Inter-ministerial Commission on OECD Affairs, Opening remarks by Angel Gurría OECD Secretary-General October 2019 – Bogota, Colombia.

[20] Bouyé and others (n 15) 48.

[21]Sustainable Development Goal Knowledge Platform (n 15).

[22] Sustainable Development Goal Knowledge Platform(n 15).

[23] Nerini and others (n 9).  

Translating collective international climate goals into adequate individual state contributions

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By Marcus Liedtke, member of the Environmental Law and Sustainability Research Group

The recent Glasgow climate conference (COP 26) once again highlighted that the international community falls far short of its ambitious collective goals set out in the Paris Agreement[1] (PA), especially to limit global warming ‘to well below 2°C’[2] and possibly 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.[3]

‘Individuation’ as a central and urgent challenge in international climate change law

A crucial but often neglected question in this regard is how to effectively translate collective international mitigation goals into adequate individual state contributions in order to ensure as far as possible that the collective goal is met.[4] Such a translation – or ‘individuation’[5] – is not only of political but also of legal importance, given that considerable voices[6]  assume that the PA’s long-term temperature goal creates a collective obligation.[7] While 2°C arguably constitute the desired minimum mitigation outcome, the 1.5°C goal forms a mere obligation of conduct.[8] Whether COP 26’s attempts to encourage enhanced immediate collective and individual state action towards closing the emissions gap and limiting global warming ideally even to 1.5°C will prove successful in practice, remains to be seen.[9]

An ‘individuation mechanism’[10] to bridge the gap between individual state ambition and the collective temperature goal should strike a careful balance between competing demands both in terms of practical effectiveness and conceptual design, especially between bottom-up and top-down approaches.[11]

Shortcomings of the Paris Agreement

The PA, recognising different national circumstances, attempts to achieve its long-term objective primarily based on bottom-up nationally determined contributions (NDCs).[12] However, despite some improvements resulting from the supplementary 2018 Paris Rulebook,[13] the current rules are insufficient to incentivise states to closely align state-level ambition with the collective temperature goal.[14] The PA especially contains only vague self-differentiation criteria[15] and does not ensure appropriate comparability, reliability and reflectiveness of NDCs, so that these tend to be self-centred and uncoordinated.[16] The transparency framework[17] and compliance mechanism[18] are unable to compensate these deficits in the bottom-up architecture.[19] The rules governing the global stocktake[20] which is to take place every five years,[21] by contrast, offer some potential to use it as an individuation mechanism.[22] This would, however, only lead to ex-post adjustments of individual state contributions and depend on the political willingness of states.[23]

Previous approaches

While the PA so far falls short of its collective goals in practice,[24] both the Framework Convention (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol (KP) at least partly effectively achieved their key targets.[25] This did, however, not result from a convincing individuation mechanism. On the contrary, the UNFCCC’s predominantly bottom-up approach[26] and the KP’s top-down emission reduction targets[27] – unlike the PA –[28] display a strong bifurcation between developed and developing countries and thus address only a small share of global emissions.[29]

Lessons from the European Union

To resolve its joint contribution under the PA into member state commitments, the European Union (EU) has to conduct a similar exercise to the one required at global level.[30] It relies upon a comprehensive legal framework to ensure adequacy, coherence and achievement of its ambitious collective and member state-level climate goals.[31] As the EU approach – balancing top-down[32] and bottom-up[33] elements of individuation – has enabled it to so far mostly effectively meet its collective targets,[34] it can in many regards inspire an individuation mechanism for the PA. Under the Effort Sharing Regulation, for instance, the collective EU 2030 mitigation target enshrined therein is broken down into individual minimum state contributions.[35] While it is upon EU member states themselves to decide how to achieve these,[36] the regulatory framework also envisages corrective action plans[37] and a critical dialogue with the European Commission on individual mitigation action.[38] Further lessons from the EU include enhanced individuation over time,[39] transparency,[40] depoliticisation of the process,[41] and well-designed flexibilities.[42]

Designing an effective individuation mechanism

A key feature of an effective individuation mechanism for the PA should therefore be a regular constructive dialogue on the consistency of the states’ individual mitigation ambition with the long-term temperature goal and more precise collective interim goals.[43] To this end, a scientific body should determine and publish a fair-share range of individual ambition in line with the collective temperature goal,[44] preferably based on the criteria of mitigation capacities, environmental integrity and intergenerational equity.[45] Another independent body should then regularly assess the adequacy of current individual contributions in that light.[46] Where states wish to deviate from its recommendations, they should publicly state their reasons to facilitate institutional, public and political scrutiny and peer pressure.[47] The constructive dialogue would thereby largely preserve the bottom-up dynamic of the PA, while creating additional top-down incentives for more regular and objective equity reflections.[48] It could thus well complement a strengthened global stocktake.[49]

Furthermore, states still struggling with capacity limitations should be allowed to use limited flexibilities.[50] To encourage also developing countries to make an as ambitious contribution as possible and avoid delaying of mitigation action, these flexibilities should, however, only be available as a last resort.[51] This would especially require that the respective state cannot deliver its full adequate contribution otherwise, even after exhausting available support which developed countries should provide as part of their fair share.[52]

Conclusion

In conclusion, the most promising way to translate collective international mitigation goals into adequate individual state contributions in order to ensure as far as possible that the collective goal is met would be a constructive dialogue between states and an independent body based on suitable equity criteria. Further refinement of the international legal framework thus seems necessary.

This blog post builds upon the author’s LLM dissertation submitted in 2021.[53]


Spotlight: Collaboration is key to boost social mobility

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Guest blog by Karl Brown FRSA, UWE Bristol Law alum and Faculty Advisory Board member.

I am a Commercial Property Partner in the Bristol office of national law firm Clarke Willmott LLP. I am proud to not only be Bristol born and bred but also very proud of my Jamaican heritage. My parents came to the UK in the early 1960s from Jamaica and my dad was a plasterer and my mum was a nurse. The example of my parents gave me a good work ethic but also a desire to make positive change by boosting social mobility and diversity in our professions. I found it very difficult to get a training contract (and ended up making over 100 applications) but through a combination of determination and also mentoring I eventually managed to get a training contract.

My personal experiences mean giving back to young people from less privileged backgrounds is important to me and is why I became a social mobility ambassador for the Law Society in 2016. In my role as a social mobility ambassador, I have given various careers presentations both in-person (pre-pandemic) and also online to show young people from underrepresented backgrounds that they can with the right attitude and work ethic have a career in law.

I firmly believe that it is only through collaboration between the business world and education institutions that we have any chance of reaching out to young people from a range of different backgrounds and inspiring them to try and achieve their desired careers.  This is why I was very proud in 2015 to be a founder member of the Bristol Learning City Partnership Board working alongside headteachers from schools in Bristol to try to formulate policies that work both for schools and also local business. And it is also why in my current role on UWE Bristol’s Faculty of Business and Law Advisory Board I always try and give the perspective of the business world when discussing ideas/proposed policies for the faculty. These roles have also I think made me a better solicitor and business leader as they have increased not only my range of soft skills but my understanding of how the world of business can best attract and develop talent.

Collaboration between businesses within a sector is also key if positive change is to be brought to that sector. I founded the Bristol Property Inclusion Charter (“the Charter”) in 2019 to boost diversity and inclusion in the Bristol property sector. Through research and also through my own networking as a property solicitor, I could see that the Bristol property sector was not as diverse as it could be given the wider diversity in the Bristol population. Another driver in my desire to bring positive change to the property industry was having seen my dad who like many other west Indian immigrants and immigrants from other countries in the past found a skilled trade in the property industry which enabled my dad and others to not only make a positive contribution to the UK economy but also to give a good start in life to their children.

The Charter has seven objectives which in summary include trying to open up opportunities in the Bristol property sector and collaboration to bring transformative change. The running of the Charter is through the Bristol Property Inclusion Commission which I founded in early 2020 and I sit on the commission as Chair alongside representatives from other parts of the property industry. In 2016 the Charter had about fifteen signatory companies/organisations but today we have sixty-six which include YTL, Live West, Bristol City Council, Avison Young, Redrow, Galliard Homes, Grainger plc and Elim Housing.

I would just conclude by making a confession. If you speak to my wife she will tell you that I am an avid follower of the news and in particular love watching CNN. It was watching CNN last year that I saw someone mention an old African proverb and as soon as I heard it I thought I would use it in speeches and articles. The proverb is “If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far go together.” If we work together then I firmly believe we can bring positive change to professions such as law and also to sectors such as property.

The role of judiciary in climate change litigation – the rise of a promising opportunity to combat climate change

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By Christina Schroeder, LLM Student, Member of Environmental Law and Sustainability Research Group.

Climate change and how to combat it is an omnipresent issue. Whereas in the past climate change and its consequences were talked down, they are now seen as the “biggest threat modern humans have ever faced”[1] and referred to as a “crisis multiplier”[2] with the need to act in time, requiring global cooperation.[3]

The previous attempt to achieve climate protection at the political level by means of the Paris Agreement[4] can be considered a failure due to the lack of implementation[5] by the states.

This is where the consideration comes into play as to whether court rulings offer a possibility to effectively combat climate change. Climate change litigation is also increasing due to the influence of many young people who are campaigning for more climate protection with the help of the courts or by organising global climate strikes.[6]

There are several reasons why courts can provide an opportunity to effectively combat climate change through their judgments. In contrast to climate agreements as for example the Paris Agreement, courts take a clear line. Cases have to be decided and thus a clear result has to be reached; while political leaders so far have failed to implement measures to reach targets of the Paris Agreement.[7] Courts are also suited to their function of enforcing decisions promoting more climate protection. In the context of climate change litigation, judicial lawmaking is also becoming increasingly important. Courts decide whether existing laws need to be reinterpreted or amended when they are deemed unfair in their application to specific cases.[8]

Judicial successes in effectively combating climate change can be seen in several landmark rulings, especially in strategic cases[9] where courts make decisions by ordering the improvement or revision of current laws,[10] as in the cases of Friends of the Irish Environment v Ireland[11] and Neubauer et al. v Germany.[12]  For example, in the case of Friends of the Irish Environment v Ireland[13] the Supreme Court of Ireland quashed the National Mitigation Plan, as the court found that the plan was not detailed enough to effectively reach the goals within Ireland’s 2015 Climate Act.[14] The court also argued that especially for a normal citizen, the plan was not sufficiently specific enough relating to what actions would be taken until 2050 to give effect to the 2015 Climate Act of Ireland.[15] In this respect, the decision of the Supreme Court of Ireland has set the course for the fight against climate change but has so far contributed little to it due to a lack of political implementation of a new Mitigation Plan.

Recently in 2021, the German Federal Constitutional Court decided that the Federal Climate Change Act[16] does not sufficiently protect the future generations from the impacts of climate change.[17] The Court also found a duty of the German government to actively protect life and health of its citizens.[18] After the ruling in Germany, the German government initiated an amendment of the Climate Protection Act in a record time.[19] Under the amended Climate Protection Act by the German government from 24 June 2021, the climate protection targets have been tightened and now aim for Germany to become greenhouse gas neutral by 2045 which is five years earlier compared to the previous target in 2019 and also ahead of the EU’s target date.

Some court cases are also aiming to put pressure on the legislator to do more for climate protection. This can be seen in the cases of the Dutch Supreme Court deciding the case of Urgenda Foundation v. State of the Netherlands[20] in 2019 which identified a legal duty of the government to prevent and combat climate change more actively;[21] and the Colombian Supreme Court ruling in 2018 in favor of 25 children in Colombia who sued the Colombian Government for failing to prevent deforestation and therefore not taking actions against climate change.[22]

In Urgenda case, the Dutch Supreme Court invoked the government’s human rights obligations. In order for these to be fulfilled, the court orientated itself on a proposed common ground, which is the targeted reduction of greenhouse gases.[23] This ruling in particular is seen as very successful due to its transferability to other European countries and has already given rise to similar climate lawsuits.[24]

In the Demanda Generaciones Futuras case, the Colombian Supreme Court ordered the government to develop a plan for environmental protection of the Amazon, and at the same time declared the Amazon as an entity with own rights to be protected from destruction. Despite this important ruling, the government has not been able to adequately protect the Amazon.[25] This is not due to the ruling of the Colombian Supreme Court itself, which aimed for comprehensive protection, but solely to the lack of initiatives and measures adopted by the political leaders. Indeed, the approach of using the ‘Rights of Nature’ to protect nature is problematic in this respect, as nature is dependent on human representation. This can work well, as in New Zealand, where the Whanganui River[26] is represented by indigenous people. In contrast, the consideration of granting rights to the Great Barrier Reef remains a concern due to a lack of representation.[27]

The cases above show that courts can be an effective way to combat climate change.

In the context of behavioral effectiveness, the courts are moderately successful, as these decisions cannot directly influence people and their behavior, but they can indirectly influence people’s behavior by stimulating social debate and media attention.[28] In addition, courts can exert direct influence on legislators through their rulings.[29] This is also done while preserving the separation of powers, since despite judicial lawmaking, courts do not become politically active. Thus, the judiciary’s role to solve problems remains complicated. This is due to the fact that the separation of powers and the role of the courts require both political and social components in order to effectively implement a decision.[30] Courts cannot fight climate change on their own, but they can positively promote it.


[1] United Nations Security Council, Press Release SC/14445 ‘Climate Change ‘Biggest Threat Modern Humans Have Ever Faced’, World-Renowned Naturalist Tells Security Council, Calls for Greater Global Cooperation’ 23 February 2021 <https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/sc14445.doc.htm> accessed 14 June 2021.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Paris Agreement, 22 April 2016, in force 4 November 2016, C.N.92.2016. Treaties-XXVII.7.d (2015 Paris Agreement).

[5] Sandrine Maljean-Dubois, ‘Climate Change Litigation’ Max Planck Encyclopedia of Procedural Law (2019) <https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-02281274/document> No.4 accessed 24 August 2021.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Sandrine Maljean-Dubois, ‘Climate Change Litigation’ (n 5) No.4.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Orla Kelleher, ‘The Supreme Court of Ireland’s Decision in Friends of the Irish Environment v Government of Ireland (“Climate Case Ireland”)’ (EJIL, 9 September 2020) <https://www.ejiltalk.org/the-supreme-court-of-irelands-decision-in-friends-of-the-irish-environment-v-government-of-ireland-climate-case-ireland/> accessed 9 July 2021.

[10] Joana Setzer, Catherine Higham, ‘Global Trends in Climate Change Litigation: 2021 Snapshot’ (Policy Report July 2021) <https://www.lse.ac.uk/granthaminstitute/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Global-trends-in-climate-change-litigation_2021-snapshot.pdf> 12, accessed 9 July 2021.

[11] Friends of the Irish Environment CLG v The Government of Ireland, Ireland and the Attorney General (2019) IEHC 747.

[12] Neubauer et al. v Germany, Court order of 24 March 2021, 1 BvR 2656/10.

[13] Friends of the Irish Environment CLG v The Government of Ireland, Ireland and the Attorney General (2019) IEHC 747.

[14] Climate Action and low Carbon Development Act 2015, 46/2015, into force on 10 December 2015.

[15] Mary Carolan, ‘Supreme Court Quashes Government’s Plan to Reduce Greenhouse Gases’ (The Irish Times, 31 July 2020) <https://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/courts/supreme-court/supreme-court-quashes-government-s-plan-to-reduce-greenhouse-gases-1.4318578> accessed 10 July 2021.

[16] Climate Protection Act Germany (Klimaschutzgesetz), into force on 12 December 2019, amended on 24 June 2021.

[17] Ralf Bodle, Stephan Sina, ‘The German Federal Constitutional Court’s Decision on the Climate Change Act’ (Ecological Institute Berlin, 2021) <https://www.ecologic.eu/18104#:~:text=In%20a%20decision%20published%20in,by%20the%20end%20of%202022> accessed 10 July 2021.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Alice Boldis, Christian Lütkehaus, ‘How a Court Ruling Changed Germany’s Climate Protection Act’ (Pinsent Masons, 20 July 2021) <https://www.pinsentmasons.com/out-law/analysis/court-ruling-germany-climate-protection-act> accessed 2 August 2021.

[20] Urgenda Foundation v The State of the Netherlands (20 December 2019) 19/00135.

[21] Urgenda, ‘Landmark Decision by Dutch Supreme Court’ (Urgenda.nl, 2020) <https://www.urgenda.nl/en/themas/climate-case/> accessed 5 August 2021.

[22] Demanda Generaciones Futuras v Minambiente, Colombian Supreme Court (5 April 2018) STC 4360-2018.

[23] Laura Burgers, André Nollkaemper, ‘A New Classic in Climate Change Litigation: The Dutch Supreme Court Decision in the Urgenda Case’ (EJIL, 6 January 2020) < https://www.ejiltalk.org/a-new-classic-in-climate-change-litigation-the-dutch-supreme-court-decision-in-the-urgenda-case/> accessed 8 August 2021.

[24] Anke Wonneberger, Rens Vliegenthart ‘Agenda-Setting Effects of Climate Change Litigation: Interrelations Across Issue Levels, Media, and Politics in the Case of Urgenda Against the Dutch Government’ (n 45) 699.

[25] Alex Guillau, ‘The Colombian Government has Failed to Fulfil the Supreme Court’s Landmark Order to Protect the Amazon’ (Dejusticia, 5 April 2019) < https://www.dejusticia.org/en/the-colombian-government-has-failed-to-fulfill-the-supreme-courts-landmark-order-to-protect-the-amazon/> accessed 25 August 2021.

[26] New Zealand, Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Act 2017 / Rapid Transition Alliance, ‘The Rise of the Rights of Nature’ (Rapid Transition, 11 March 2019) <https://www.rapidtransition.org/stories/the-rise-of-the-rights-of-nature/> accessed 16 August 2021.

[27] Randall S. Abate, Climate Change and the Voiceless (Cambridge University Press 2019) 161.

[28] Anke Wonneberger, Rens Vliegenthart, ‘Agenda-Setting Effects of Climate Change Litigation: Interrelations Across Issue Levels, Media, and Politics in the Case of Urgenda Against the Dutch Government’ (2021) 15 Environmental Communication 699.

[29] Jaqueline Peel, Hari M. Osofsky, ‘Clime Change Litigation’ (2020) Annu. Rev. Law. Soc. Sci.33.

[30] Luke Elborough, ‘International Climate Change Litigation: Limitations and Possibilities for International Adjudication and Arbitration in Addressing the Challenge of Climate Change’ (2017) 21 NZ J Envtl L 125.

Climate Change Litigation – A Vehicle for Changing Corporation and State Behaviour?

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By Johanna Reichel, Second Year, LL.B. Programme.

With only nine years left until climate change becomes irreversible,[1] stopping or slowing it down becomes increasingly crucial every day. One judicial instrument among others to combat climate change is climate change litigation which is gradually perceived to change climate-related policy outcomes and corporate behaviour.

The most prominent case when talking about climate change litigation is Urgenda.[2]In this case, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled in favour of 900 citizens assisted by the Urgenda Foundation and ordered the government to reduce greenhouse gas emission (GHG) by at least 25% by the end of 2020.[3] This “show horse” of climate change litigation is an almost perfect example of invoking human rights to force States to act ‘greener’.

Climate change litigation cases, especially ones relying on human rights, are increasing.[4] When the defendant is the respective government, the claimants can rely on human rights. Especially the right to life[5] and the right to effective remedies[6] have been used more often strategically and successfully by NGO’s and individuals.

Urgenda paved the way for other individuals, such as Ashgar Leghari, a farmer in Pakistan, to hold their governments accountable via litigation. Mr Leghari challenged the Pakistani government for its failure to carry out core provisions of the National Climate Change Policy of 2012. He succeeded and the government was ordered to implement a climate adaption plan.[7]

In 2018, Colombia’s Supreme Court ordered the authorities to implement action plans to address deforestation in the Amazon,[8] another major cause of climate change. As the ‘lung of the world’, the Amazon Forest stores large amounts of carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and thereby increasing the world’s temperature.[9]

As demonstrated, climate change litigation is a tool to influence climate change law and policy. Nevertheless, as corporations are responsible for over 71% of global emissions,[10] holding them accountable is essential to stop climate change. However, as the provisions in the Human Right Charters are only addressed to public bodies, corporations cannot be held liable under them.[11] After failed attempts in the early 2000s,[12] the second wave of litigation rose with cases such as Huaraz Case[13] where Saúl Luciano Lliuya, a Peruvian farmer, is suing the German multinational energy company RWE in Germany to hold them accountable for their impact on climate change. He is basing his claim on the German Code of Civil procedure, yet the outcome must be awaited as SARS COVID-19 delayed the process.[14]

The precedent for climate change litigation against corporations was recently set in Milieudefensie v Shell.[15] In May 2021, Shell was ordered to cut their GHG by 2030 by 45%.[16] Relying on the Urgenda precedent and the fact that Shell’s GHG was twice as high as the Netherland’s, the court permitted the claim under the European Convention on Human Rights.[17]

Despite the fact that courts do not always rule in favour of the environment, corporations can be influenced to act ‘greener’ due to media coverage. ExxonMobile, for example, misled the public about climate change’s potential business risks to rationalize their behaviour by funding climate change denial front groups and spreading disinformation about climate science.[18] Despite winning the case, the subsequent public and financial scrutiny damaged their reputation, and their credit rating was downgraded.[19] In conclusion, climate change litigation is accurately seen as a tool to influence climate change policies and corporate behaviour. However, cases such as Urgenda and Milieudefensie, while demonstrating an ideal outcome, are rare and must be built upon. Milieudefensie, in particular, needs to be further observed as Shell will undoubtedly appeal the decision. Nevertheless, even unsuccessful cases can drive climate change action long term as public awareness is raised through media attention and a broad public discussion is forced.


[1] General Assembly, Only 11 Years Left to Prevent Irreversible Damage from Climate Change, Speakers Warn during General Assembly High-Level Meeting (28 March 2019) < https://www.un.org/press/en/2019/ga12131.doc.htm> accessed 18 May 2021

[2] Supreme Court of the Netherlands, 20 December 2019, ECLI:NL:HR:2019:2007, English translation ECLI:NL:2019:2007

[3]’Climate Case – Urgenda’ (Urgenda, 2019) <https://www.urgenda.nl/en/themas/climate-case/> accessed 18 May 2021;  Supreme Court of the Netherlands, 20 December 2019, ECLI:NL:HR:2019:2007, English translation ECLI:NL:2019:2007

[4] Elisa de Wit, Sonali Seneviratne and Huw Calford, ‘Climate Change Litigation Update’ (Nortonrosefulbright.com, 2020) <https://nortonrosefulbright.com/en/knowledge/publications/7d58ae66/climate-change-litigation-update> accessed 24 May 2021

[5] Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1848, art. 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, art. 6

[6] Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1848, art. 8; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights 1966, art. 2(3)

[7] Asghar Leghari v Federation of Pakistan (2015) W.P. No 25501/201

[8] Demanda Generaciones Futuras v. Minambiente 11001-22-03-000-2018-00319-01, para 3.

[9] Ross W. Gorte and Pervaze A. Sheikh ‘Deforestation and Climate Change’ (Congressional Research Service, 2010) < http://forestindustries.eu/sites/default/files/userfiles/1file/R41144.pdf> accessed 2 July 2021

[10] Tess Riley, ‘Just 100 Companies Responsible For 71% Of Global Emissions, Study Says’ (the Guardian, 2017) <https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jul/10/100-fossil-fuel-companies-investors-responsible-71-global-emissions-cdp-study-climate-change> accessed 18 May 2021

[11] European Commission, ‘How to report a breach of your rights’ https://ec.europa.eu/info/aid-development-cooperation-fundamental-rights/your-rights-eu/how-report-breach-your-rights_en accessed 26 May 2021

[12] Michal Nachmany and Joana Setzer, ‘Global trends in climate change legislation and litigation: 2018 snapshot’ (2018) Graham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment < https://www.lse.ac.uk/granthaminstitute/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Global-trends-in-climate-change-legislation-and-litigation-2018-snapshot-3.pdf> accessed 24 May 2021

[13] Agence France-Presse, ‘Peruvian farmer sues German energy giant for contributing to climate change’ The Guardian (14 November 2017) < https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/14/peruvian-farmer-sues-german-energy-giant-rwe-climate-change> accessed 24 May 2021

[14] Luciano Lliuya v. RWE AG Case No. 2 O 285/15 Essen Regional Court

[15] The Hague District Court, 26 May 2021, ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2021:5337, English translation ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2021:5339

[16] Roger Harrabin ‘Shell: Netherlands court orders oil giant to cut emissions’ BBC News (26 May 2021) < https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-57257982> accessed 26 May 2021

[17] Milieudefensie v Shell [2019] District Court of The Hague < http://blogs2.law.columbia.edu/climate-change-litigation/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/non-us-case-documents/2019/20190405_8918_summons.pdf> accessed 26 May 2021

[18] Suzanne Goldenberg ‘ExxonMobil under investigation over claims it lied about climate change risks’ The Guardian (New York, 5.11.2015) <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/nov/05/exxonmobil-investigation-climate-change-peabody> accessed 8 July 2021

[19] Megan Darby, ‘Shareholder Pressure Mounts On Downgraded Exxonmobil’ (the Guardian, 2016) <https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/apr/28/shareholders-pressure-mounts-on-downgraded-exxonmobil-climate-change> accessed 25 May 2021

Students launch legal directory to help aspiring lawyers

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Lawtask is an online legal directory designed to help future lawyers bridge the gap between leaving university and securing their first positions in their legal careers. Lawtask allows students to gain professional skills and experience, in their pursuit of a legal career. This is achieved through the consolidation of relevant and practical opportunities and resources.

Set up in 2020, Lawtask was founded by Alessia Cucciniello, recent UWE Bristol Law graduate, and Kieran Woodhouse, LPC LLM student at UWE Bristol. Both have ambitions of becoming solicitors and have also been involved with the UWE Bristol Law Society, with Kieran being elected Vice-President.

Formed during the Covid-19 pandemic, Lawtask was a response to the competitive legal sector that students are faced with when leaving University. Alessia and Kieran launched Lawtask to enable law students to stand out through providing knowledge sharing and useful tools to give students a great place to start in the pursuit of their legal careers.

“Our aim was to bridge the gap between graduating university and securing your first legal job. There are plenty of resources out there to choose from, and our aim was to collect them in an easily accessible platform that could help students gain essential skills to stand out.”

Alessia

They explored the concept of virtual learning and discovered the huge variety of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that applied to legal students. These courses demonstrate transferable skills and a drive to seek personal improvement that employers are truly looking for.

“One thing we realised when searching for these and other relevant experiences, was that there is no single place for law students to discover the opportunities open to them. This then sparked the concept for Lawtask.”

Kieran

The platform is still in its early stages, however, the pair have seen great success so far. The feedback they have received from both students and staff at UWE has been hugely positive and led to consistent audience growth and user interaction.

“Our hope for the future is to be able to grow and provide more opportunities for students. We would like to expand our platform and start offering real work experience that graduates can use on their job applications, in order to truly help them succeed. We are still working on this, but we hope that we will be able to do this very soon.”

Alessia

“My ultimate hope for Lawtask is that it becomes the norm for law students to consider looking outside the traditional scope of experience and learning and that Lawtask can be a place that can guide people to something beneficial for them.”

Kieran

We asked them both for their advice to current students and here’s what they said:

“My advice to current students is to make good use of all the resources and opportunities offered by UWE and engage with the societies. Not only this will enhance your student experience, but it might also give you essential skills that you will carry with you and shape your future career.”

Alessia

“In my personal experience, so many people emphasise their degree being the absolute evidence of their ability to do anything and so often people forget the importance of personal development. With that in mind, my advice would be to take the opportunities that you have available to you either within your subject or elsewhere because now is the time to explore them. Who knows, you may find a whole new career aspiration.”

Kieran

You can visit Lawtask here.

Twitter Bitcoin Scam

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By Henry Hillman, Lecturer in Law at UWE Bristol.

On 15 July 2020, numerous high profile Twitter users’ accounts were hijacked to display messages promising to return double the Bitcoin sent to a published Bitcoin address. Compromised accounts included Barack Obama, Elon Musk, and Kim Kardashian,[1] as well as accounts linked to high profile cryptocurrency service providers such as Coindesk and Binance.[2] The nature of the compromised accounts meant that the incident very quickly became headline news, and Twitter acknowledged the issue publicly through its CEO[3] and support pages.[4] Needless to say, nobody who sent the Bitcoins to the scam address received any Bitcoins in return. Responsibility for the attack has been claimed by ‘Cryptoforhealth’ which was registered on Instagram at the same time as the scam tweets. The account posted a statement claiming the attack was for charity and that the “money will find its way to the right place.”[5]

As further details have emerged, Twitter has revealed that 130 accounts were targeted, 45 had their passwords reset, and the account information for 8 accounts was downloaded.[6] While the identities of the compromised accounts is clear from the accounts the scam address was tweeted from, it is not known whose data has been downloaded. Twitter has stated that no ‘verified’ accounts have had their data downloaded, meaning no account with the blue tick, assigned to high profile assure the account is genuine,[7] and, understandably, Twitter will not reveal any further details on who has had their data downloaded.

The claims purporting the charitable nature of the attack cannot be corroborated, and the real identity of the perpetrators is still not known. The ‘CryptoForHealth.com’ domain name was created on 15 July,[8] the same day of the scam tweets, using a fake address and phone number.[9]  The name ‘Anthony Elias’ was used to register the website, but no genuine identity can be traced.[10]

How?

The exact methods employed by the perpetrators of the scam will likely never be known, as it is not likely an organisation would want to provide the details of how to breach its security, for fear of similar attacks. Twitter has been relatively open in recognising the security breach so quickly, and providing a public update on 18 July 2020 stating that “attackers targeted certain Twitter employees through a social engineering scheme.”[11] Social engineering is a broad term, which refers to obtaining sensitive information from an individual or group of people in possession of the information, or with access to it.[12] This could be as simple as phishing, or more complex by duping an individual using other relevant information to gain trust. Twitter state that the “attackers successfully manipulated a small number of employees and used their credentials to access Twitter’s internal systems,”[13] in order to post tweets from high profile accounts. Given the number of affected accounts, and the complexity of two-factor authentication,[14] it is likely to have been a complex operation, but it cannot be ruled out that the perpetrators were the benefactors of a slice of good fortune in obtaining their ‘all access pass’ to twitter accounts.

Analysis

While such a scam has not made headline news before, the nature of it has many similarities to previous scams, both in Bitcoin and wider internet scams. There are issues with the term hacking, the simplicity of the scam proposition, and the behaviour of the Bitcoin address in the scam being similar to that of ransomware attacks, such as Wannacry.

While a technical point, it should be acknowledged that this is not a hack, Twitter’s security infrastructure was not breached due to a weakness exploited by the attackers. The reason the attackers were able to post tweets from compromised accounts was due to human error, if Twitter’s statements are to be believed.

The scam was a very simple one, which relied upon the fame of the account holders, and the influence they may have on their followers, to provide veracity to the address and encourage victims to send Bitcoins. If the aim was to make money then the tactics used once the attackers had access appear unsophisticated. The premise should not cause many to believe they will get their sent Bitcoins doubled, and only 12.8652 Bitcoins were sent to the address, equating to around £94,000 based on the value of Bitcoin around the time of the attack. The simplicity of the tweets may be why only 44 incoming transactions can be seen for the Bitcoin address published.[15] The second way in which the attack was crude was in the victim twitter accounts chosen, and the tweets being posted in short order. By selecting high profile victims, and tweeting from all of their accounts on the same day, the attackers were always going to be detected quickly. The attackers would have been naïve in the extreme not to realise their attack would be detected very quickly, this has led to the attack being described as a “smash and grab” exercise.[16] The crudeness of the tactics suggest acquiring Bitcoins could have been a secondary aim for the attack, with publicity being the main goal.

The behaviour of the Bitcoin address published in the tweets follows a predictable path. The Bitcoins received were not kept in the address for very long, quickly being moved to various addresses, which in turn moved the Bitcoins on again. With patience the Bitcoins can be traced, as distributed ledger technology means all transactions are published on the blockchain, but the owners of the addresses remain unknown. These practices are similar to those employed by ransomware attackers once the ransoms are paid to their respective addresses. The biggest weakness from publishing a criminal Bitcoin address is that investigators have a starting point from which to follow transactions. This issue can be addressed by using ‘mixer’ services. These services allow users to disguise which addresses Bitcoins are being sent to by completing the transaction as part of a group of transactions. Bitcoin transactions can have numerous input address and numerous output addresses, a mixer service will gather large numbers of inputs and send them all in one transaction to the outputs, but it will not be possible for investigators to know which senders correlate to which recipients.

Conclusions

This incident will fade out of the public consciousness very quickly, and it is unlikely the full details of how the attack was conducted will ever be made public. It is also unlikely that any Bitcoins sent to the scam address will be retrieved, and equally unlikely that the attack was a charitable one. For investigators, it provides an opportunity to view the behaviour of the attackers and it also serves as a very public lesson in basic financial intelligence; do not send your money to random locations on the internet, and if a deal sounds too good to be true, in invariably is.


[1] BBC News, ‘Major US Twitter accounts hacked in Bitcoin scam’ (16 July 2020) <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-53425822> accessed 20 July 2020.

[2] Cameron Winklevoss, ‘Twitter Status’ (Twitter, 21:18 BST 15 July 2020) <https://twitter.com/winklevoss/status/1283493640287989760?s=20> accessed 20 July 2020.

[3] Jack Dorsey, ‘Thread’ (Twitter, 02:18 BST 16 July 2020) <https://twitter.com/jack/status/1283571658339397632?s=20> accessed 20 July 2020.

[4] Twitter Support, ‘Thread’ (22:45 15 July 2020) <https://twitter.com/TwitterSupport/status/1283518038445223936?s=20> accessed 20 July 2020.

[5] BBC News, ‘Twitter hack: FBI investigates major Twitter attack’ (17 July 2020) <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-53439585> accessed 21 July 2020.

[6] Twitter, ‘An update on our security incident’ (18 July 2020) <https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/an-update-on-our-security-incident.html> accessed 20 July 2020.

[7] Twitter, ‘About verified accounts’ <https://help.twitter.com/en/managing-your-account/about-twitter-verified-accounts> accessed 20 July 2020.

[8] Whois Domain Tools, ‘Whois Record for CryptoForHealth.com’ (created 15 July 2020, last updated 21 July 2020) <https://whois.domaintools.com/cryptoforhealth.com> accessed 21 July 2020.

[9] Samuel Haig, ‘Who Owns the ‘CryptoForHealth’ Domain Behind the Twitter Hacks?’ (CoinTelegraph, 16 July 2020) <https://cointelegraph.com/news/who-owns-the-cryptoforhealth-domain-behind-the-twitter-hacks> accessed 21 July 2020

[10] BBC News, ‘Twitter hack: FBI investigates major Twitter attack’ (17 July 2020) <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-53439585> accessed 21 July 2020.

[11] Twitter, ‘An update on our security incident’ (18 July 2020) <https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/an-update-on-our-security-incident.html> accessed 20 July 2020.

[12] F. Mouton, L. Leenen, and H.S. Venter, ‘Social engineering attack examples, templates and scenarios’ (2016) 59 Computers & Security 186 at p187.

[13] Twitter, ‘An update on our security incident’ (18 July 2020) <https://blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/company/2020/an-update-on-our-security-incident.html> accessed 20 July 2020.

[14] Twitter, ‘How to use two-factor authentication’ <https://help.twitter.com/en/managing-your-account/two-factor-authentication> accessed 20 July 2020.

[15] BitInfoCharts, ‘Bitcoin Address bc1qxy2kgdygjrsqtzq2n0yrf2493p83kkfjhx0wlh’  <https://bitinfocharts.com/bitcoin/address/bc1qxy2kgdygjrsqtzq2n0yrf2493p83kkfjhx0wlh> accessed 21 July 2020.

[16] Joe Tidy, ‘Major US Twitter accounts hacked in Bitcoin scam’ (BBC News, 16July 2020) <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-53425822> accessed 21 July 2020.

Pre-trial detention decision-making during the COVID-19 crisis: the urgent need for open justice

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In April 2020, Tom Smith, Senior Lecturer in Law at UWE Bristol, published a short article for criminal justice NGO Fair Trials, discussing the use of pre-trial detention during the Covid-19 emergency. The full post was written by Tom Smith and was first published on the Fair Trials website.

Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic has the majority of the world confined to their homes on lockdown, vital public services – most visibly healthcare – continue to operate in very difficult and risky circumstances. The criminal justice system is one such public service. Whilst most jurisdictions have made significant changes to their working practices in response to the pandemic, work must continue to ensure that justice is delivered fairly and effectively. An essential element of doing so is ensuring justice is seen to be done; this principle of open justice is crucial to a fair and effective justice system, but is currently under threat. In England and Wales (E&W), this is particularly so in relation to cases involving pre-trial detention (PTD), which are, at present, the main work of the criminal courts. The vast majority of cases deemed non-vital are currently not being heard, most notably in magistrates courts (in which all cases start and most cases conclude). HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), which has been publishing daily operational updates, identifies ‘overnight custody cases from police stations’, ‘productions from prisons’, and ‘applications to extend custody time limits’ as the only work currently being conducted by the Crown Prosecution Service (which prosecutes most criminal cases). All involve PTD. Overnight custody cases are, in effect, the first appearance at court of someone charged with an offence. If detained by the police after charge, this must happen the next working day. Productions from prisons will also normally relate to a relevant time limit on PTD, such as the requirement for a defendant to be returned to court within 8 clear days after their first detention. Custody Time Limits (CTLs) apply to all cases involving PTD, and vary depending on the seriousness of the charge. If the limit expires, the defendant must be released on bail – hence the need to return them to court to extend a limit (which courts have the power to do). Other work is identified as continuing in magistrates courts, but the above will be the main case load currently being dealt with – and all involve, exclusively, PTD decision making. 

This is important for several reasons. There are no new jury trials; the Crown Court (the higher criminal trial court) will only cover urgent work. The senior courts, such as the Court of Appeal (which cover a fraction of the cases dealt with in trial courts) are similar. Therefore, dealing with PTD decisions are and will represent the primary day-to-day activity of the criminal courts system as a whole for the foreseeable future. This makes sense in the current situation, but raises questions about pre-existing issues related to PTD. For example, concerns have been raised about the brevity of PTD decision-making, lasting on average a few minutes. Set against a general atmosphere of ‘urgency’ both outside of and within the courts, this may be exacerbated. Similarly, previous concerns about limited reasoning for PTD decisions may be affected by the desire to work swiftly in the current circumstances. Both of the above may also be impacted by the now pervasive use of video link technology (VLT) to avoid the attendance of all parties at court. This is clearly justifiable for public health reasons and the safety of all involved; but this has also been implemented very quickly. VLT has been criticised in the past for not facilitating proceedings adequately in terms of quality, reliability and engagement of all parties involved (particularly defendants). In terms of speed and reasoning, one would hope that more time would be taken over VLT to ensure decisions are thorough and clear. But it might be argued that technology tends to enable and encourage us to do things more quickly. There is a risk this could deepen the problems above. 

The same might be said of disclosure of information and evidence in advance of PTD hearings. Defendants and their lawyers have previously reported consistently failing to be given full information prior to consultation and representation before a court on PTD matters. Lawyers would often receive such information shortly before or even during hearings, sometimes by physically being shown material in court. This may be even more problematic in the current circumstances if none of the parties are actually present in the same room. One must wonder whether remote conduct of PTD hearings will help or hinder defence lawyers in this regard; after all, sharing of evidence prior to the pandemic was done entirely electronically, and yet has consistently been a problem. It is also worth noting that it appears that most PTD decision making in the courts is currently being made by District Judges (DJs, professional judges) rather than a bench of lay magistrates (ordinary, legally untrained citizens). Previous research  has suggested distinct modes of practice depending on the decision-maker, with DJs tending to be quicker, but better in terms of reasoning. Some research has also shown a tendency of DJs to be more willing to detain defendants, though this has varied. Again, this factor could have some impact on PTD decision-making over the coming months. 

Aside from aggravating existing problems in PTD practice, the current situation creates new issues. It has been pointed out by many that it is imperative to reduce the use of detention generally (including PTD) for public health reasons. Keeping defendants out of custody where possible and lawful should be a priority. As such, decisions need to be well considered and not relapse into habitual ways of approaching cases. Previous research has shown PTD practice stubbornly resistant to change in many respects (with some exceptions); we must therefore hope that the long-term issues highlighted above do not restrict this important need to think differently about detention in light of Covid-19. It is hard to say how much of a problem the issues above will be; these suggestions are purely speculative, but that is for good reason. At present, in E&W, it is almost impossible for a researcher or the public to observe PTD decision-making in the courts: they are effectively inaccessible. HMCTS has announced ‘a range of measures to support the principle of open justice’, including: 

  1. access to open hearings if a public gallery is available 
  2. remote access for a third party 
  3. transcripts (if available) for any party or interested person 
  4. audio recording which can be listened to in a court building 
  5. notes of a hearing to be made available on request 
  6. access for accredited media  

On paper, this looks to be a good range of access to PTD decision making in the current difficult circumstances. In reality, they are arguably unfeasible. Numbers 1 and 4 are almost impossible in light of strong guidance to the public not to leave home unless it is essential. Number 2 will, effectively, depend on the goodwill and engagement of particular court staff to facilitate such access. Transcripts may not, in fact, be made and if requested, will depend on definitions such as ‘interested party’. Number 5 may not provide useful information to an observer since notes will not necessarily be comprehensive or reflect their interests. It is also worth noting that for none of the above is further information available on how one might pursue these routes of access. 

Number 6 is the only route that appears to be currently operational, but only to some extent. Some journalists have reported good access to proceedings via remote links. For example, Tristan Cork of the London Evening Standard reported on the bail hearing of Julian Assange (who had a bail request denied on the basis he might flee – a questionable decision in light of the extreme travel restrictions presently in place in the UK). However, this was a high profile case, likely to attract attention – unlike most PTD hearings. Moreover, most of the journalists reporting good access are London-based. It might also be added that many – including Cork – will now be on furlough due to Covid-19, like many members of the working public, and will therefore not be reporting on cases. As such, at present, it is unclear how accessible PTD decision-making is to the media, the public, or researchers. We might therefore ask – beyond the lawyers involved in cases, who is checking current practice? PTD decision-making directly affects the liberty of unconvicted persons and this will (and should) continue despite the various restrictions currently in place. However, the latter fact creates potential for lengthy delays to trials since none are being listed, and therefore much longer periods of detention for unconvicted defendants. It is very important to be able to properly scrutinise such decision making; a lack of scrutiny in any discipline enables (and in some cases encourages) poor practice to flourish.

All the above might be dubbed an overreaction, but the conviction of Marie Dinou has already proven the risks to be real. Dinou was approached by police at Newcastle Central train station and asked to account for her presence. She did not do so and was arrested on suspicion of an offence under the new Coronavirus Act 2020. She spent two days in custody before being brought to a court hearing; after failing to confirm her personal details, she was returned to the court cells, and was convicted in her absence without a lawyer. Dinou allegedly did not say a word on arrest; to her lawyer at the police station; or at court. It appears no mental health assessment was made of her, nor was it confirmed whether she spoke English. After persistent inquiry by journalists and lawyers via social media, it transpired that Dinou had been charged with a non-existent offence under the legislation, and therefore wrongfully convicted. This has now been set aside. As has been pointed out by lawyer Robin Murray, there appear to have been a catalogue of breaches of the Criminal Procedure Rules (which govern criminal court proceedings) and legislation relating to disclosure, compounded by a lack of legal representation and failure to confirm the defendant’s ability to comprehend proceedings. This case, however, bucks the trend of invisibility for most; it was a minor offence dealt with in a lower court, which are generally paid little attention. Yet Dinou spent two days in PTD, to be convicted incorrectly. This raises the very real possibility that this may already be happening across E&W (a jurisdiction with a comparatively robust PTD framework), and beyond; and with very limited access to the courts for external observers to scrutinise and question poor practice, there is real risk of not only unnecessary and excessive detention of unconvicted persons, but wrongful convictions. It is therefore imperative that access to external observation be realistically operationalised as soon as possible; and that practitioners ensure that thoroughness and care is taken in PTD decision-making in the admittedly very difficult – but, equally, medium-term – circumstances in which criminal justice now functions. 

Using as the Starting Point the Article ‘WTO Rules against EU “Anti-Dumping” Duties on Indonesian Biofuel’ by Natasha Burton in New Economy on 26 January 2018, Discuss the Use of Anti-dumping Measures by the EU on Biofuels

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Written by Chloe Barratt

This post (edited for publication) is published on our blog as part of a series of work produced by students for assessment within the module ‘Public International Law’. Following the blogging success over the last couple of years, we decided to publish our students’ excellent work in this area again in this way. The module is an option in the second year of Bristol Law School’s LLB programme. It continues to be led by Associate Professor Dr Noëlle Quénivet. Using innovative learning and teaching methods, Noëlle developed this module to include the use of online portfolios within a partly student led curriculum. The posts in this series show the outstanding research and analytical abilities of students on our programmes. Views expressed in this blog post are those of the author only who consents to the publication.

Anti-dumping duties are additional charges imposed by a state in response to the dumping of products into the ‘commerce of another country at less than the normal value of the products’ (Article VI GATT). They are a means of neutralising unfair trade practice, allowing states to protect their domestic industry if the dumping is having a negative effect on their economy. This blog will discuss how the European Union (EU) imposes anti-dumping measures on biofuels, a renewable source of energy that until recently was seen as an attractive alternative to fossil fuels. I will discuss how the issue that lies at the heart of the dispute with anti-dumping measures is, as Burton’s article highlights, how the extent of dumping is calculated. After examining the implications of anti-dumping measures, I will conclude that they are necessarily used to neutralise unfair trade practice and maintain economic and social stability within the EU.

Process of Bringing an Anti-dumping Measure

To ensure anti-dumping duties are imposed to counteract unfair trade practice, the process of imposing duties is heavily regulated. Accordingly, Article 1 of the  Agreement on Implementation of Article VI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994 (ADA) requires all investigations to be initiated and conducted in accordance with the provisions of the ADA. Whilst the World Trade Organisation (WTO) does not regulate the initial act of dumping, it is responsible for regulating the process a state must follow when initiating an anti-dumping measure. If, for example, the EU believes products are being dumped into its market it must first be able to show that the dumping is taking place. In doing so it must be able to calculate how much lower the export price is in comparison to the home market price and show that it is causing injury or threatening to do so. The high threshold for establishing the injurious effect of the dumping accompanied by an investigation (see Article 5 ADA) seeks to ensure that anti-dumping duties are used productively.

Why Calculations of Anti-dumping Measures Have Proven Problematic

Whilst the process of imposing an anti-dumping measure is well regulated, the element of calculating the extent of dumping was highlighted as problematic in Burton’s article. As the EU explains in the Commission Implementing Regulation 2018/1570, following the rulings in Indonesia and Argentina (see para 8), the method of calculation has now been clarified in light of the ADA (for the original reports of the dispute settlement body, see Indonesia (DS480) and Argentina (DS473)). 

The dispute between the EU on the one hand and Argentina and Indonesia on the other (see history here) follows a number of WTO challenges to anti-dumping measures (see discussion in Crowley and Hillman, ‘Slamming the Door on Trade Policy Discretion? The WTO Appellate Body’s Ruling on Market Distortions and Production Costs in EU-Biodiesel (Argentina) (2018) 17 World Trade Review 195-213) where the underlying issue was how authorities adjusted the prices of exporting producers. For example, when constructing a home market price for Argentine biodiesel, that is the price of which biodiesel was sold in Argentina, the European Commission chose to alter the price of soybeans to compensate for the distortion in soybean prices, caused by an export tax imposed by the Argentine government (see Crowley and Hillman, at 2).  The price was adjusted based on the fact that soybeans, the primary input of biodiesel, were considerably below the international price and the Commission reasoned the adjustment was what ‘would have been the price paid… in the absence of the export tax system’.

The dispute with Indonesia was similar in the sense that it also involved a problem with  calculations: the EU had replaced the actual price of crude palm oil that was within the producers’ records with an international reference price. The price of the palm oil was lower than international prices, which meant the EU imposed higher duties on Indonesia in response to what they calculated the extent of dumping to be. When deciding on the trade disputes in the cases of Indonesia and Argentina, the Dispute Settlement Body for the WTO found the EU had indeed acted inconsistently with both GATT 1994 and ADA.

Therefore, whilst there has been a period of uncertainty in calculating the extent of dumping, this imperfection has now been clarified by the WTO. The clear guidance now states that countries are not legally permitted to take government manipulated price control into account.

Social and Economic Stability 

Since the WTO cannot regulate the act of dumping, the ability for a state to impose ‘remedial and not punitive’ measures in response to dumping are essential to nullify unfair trade practice. The measures imposed by the EU on biofuels have been used to counteract the great harm that dumping poses to the economic and social stability of the EU. 

Biofuels being dumped into the commerce of the EU not only disrupts the trading of the fuels but also distorts the standard value of the commodity. EU producers are faced with unfair competition and in considering the vast difference in Indonesia’s access to the raw materials used for biofuels (i.e. palm oil) in comparison to the EU’s access,  the EU could not physically be expected to meet the competitors’ low price without a substantial economic loss. The subsequent effect on the domestic economy could see a closure in business and vast unemployment, which the EU is able to avoid with anti-dumping measures.

Conclusion

In summary, anti-dumping measures by the EU have been imposed to minimise the economic disruption caused by the dumping of biofuels. Whilst the EU was found to have miscalculated the extent of dumping, this was recognised and rectified by the WTO dispute settlement mechanism which in turn acknowledged the lawfulness of anti-dumping measures as such. Overall, these measures have been used productively to counteract unfair competition. 

‘Who Cares?’ play comes to Bristol Law School

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The play ‘Who Cares’ was performed in the Faculty of Business and Law at UWE Bristol on 28 January 2020. It was a piece of social theatre which depicted a family in crisis and the delicate and difficult issues and decisions that might lead to a young child’s adoption.

Following the eight scenes, there was a question and answer session with the cast in role, and a facilitated discussion between the actors and the audience. This allowed the audience to interact with professionals and actors alike, helping them to gain a fuller understanding of the issues and the consequences of family proceedings for the family and professionals involved. Many of the audience were students, parents and grandparents. Many were family justice professionals. Others represented charities supporting people in the midst of a family crisis, facing homelessness or trying to address such issues as drug and alcohol misuse, and domestic abuse.

The engaging script was written by His Honour Judge Stephen Wildblood QC, the Designated Family Judge for wider Bristol area comprising 5 local authorities. He also took on the role of the Judge in the play. The performance and discussion highlighted the vital work of the Family Court, aiming to ‘show not tell’ the audience the kinds of issues that were considered there every day and how they might be resolved. HHJ Stephen Wildblood QC explained the impact of austerity and the current lack of funding on families and suggested that a preventative approach could help to avert family crises and court intervention. He pointed out the benefits of networks and charities such as The Nelson Trust which supported this production.

The play was presented in collaboration with The Nelson Trust and Gloucestershire Children’s Services’ Social Work Academy. The production was sponsored by Albion Chambers, Family Law Week and Bristol Resolution and it was performed by professional actors at ‘What Next Theatre’.

The play was brought to UWE Bristol by Senior Lecturer in Law, Emma Whewell, who is also on the steering committee of a Family Law Theatre initiative. Emma is one of two academics to sit on the Local Family Justice Board in Bristol and is currently in the process of organising a conference for the Local Family Justice Board to take place at UWE Bristol on 14th May 2020.

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