New Zealand Law Society - IBA’s new statute on tackling climate change

IBA’s new statute on tackling climate change

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The International Bar Association (IBA) has launched a new tool aimed at addressing the climate emergency and achieving climate change justice.

The IBA says the Model Statute for Proceedings Challenging Government Failure to Act on Climate Change, which was launched in London, is the first of its kind.

“Based on advice from leading experts, it provides detailed rationales, precedents and 23 specific Articles for reforms which will enable citizens to ask for judicial review of the sufficiency of their government’s climate measures and, where these are lacking, to assess whether more government measures are warranted under domestic laws,” the IBA says.

“This Model Statute is intended to lower the procedural legal hurdles many citizens face when trying to access the courts,” says David Estrin, Co-Chair of the IBA Model Statute Expert Working Group.

“Building on recent successes and judicial reasoning, it highlights the role of litigation in setting requirements for governments to protect the public. The adoption of some or all of the Model Statute by judges, rules of court, policy-makers or legislatures will help ensure a critical and timely reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.’

The Working Group recognised that despite some influential litigation successes, there remains many legal hurdles for citizens attempting to hold governments accountable for climate inaction. For example, in some cases, governments have argued that the climate crisis is a policy issue and therefore cannot be ruled upon by the courts. In other instances, procedural and legal hurdles, such as courts denying citizen standing to bring on the case, have led to their dismissal before the merits were argued; and other issues, such as litigation costs, which include lawyers’ fees, court fees and disbursements, can negatively ‘chill’ citizens from even trying to access courts. The Articles of the Model Statute, where adopted by courts or legislatures, would allow these hurdles to be lowered or eliminated.

The proposed legislation follows the IBA’s Task Force on Climate Change Justice and Human Rights landmark 2014 report, Achieving Justice and Human Rights in an Era of Climate Disruption, which identified the numerous legal hurdles facing citizens in climate litigation cases. Whilst the Articles are aimed at being adopted by legislatures and the courts, the introductory Commentary of the Model Statute Report is directed at those without any legal training or background to assist in a better understanding of the opportunities for citizen litigation challenging government climate action and inaction.