New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by Michael Faure and Marjan Peeters
Chapter 3: High Noon: Prevention of Climate Damage as the Primary Goal of Liability?
Jaap Spier1 Climate change has become a hot topic – for lawyers, too, and increasingly so in the legal arena. In a very recent speech, President Nasheed of the Maldives put it this way: we have a common enemy.2 He was generous enough not to mention which countries he meant, but the point politely left in abeyance – is obvious nonetheless: climate change is a problem stemming from our part of the globe. The speaker was right: we are the enemy. The worrying facts are well known. For our purposes, it is probably sufficient to underscore the extremely serious threat of climate change for the already most vulnerable countries.3 They are going to pay the price for our recklessness, despite the fact that they did not cause the problem. The emissions of most developing countries are still far below those of the developed countries – that even goes for China, if counted per capita.4 The prospects are increasingly gloomy. Copenhagen did not bring the bold and immediate actions that we desperately need.5 Scott Barrett rightly put it as follows: ‘To many, the Copenhagen Accord will seem a setback; but actually it is a continuation of a long history of failure.’6 The major obstacles probably are a number of conservative states in the US. According to the prevailing view among experts, climate change is a violation of human rights.7 If that holds true – I think it does – it undoubtedly is the most serious violation ever.8 It is intriguing to note that we are so...
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