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Alf Hornborg

This article sketches a transdisciplinary theoretical framework for understanding the so-called Anthropocene in terms of global inequalities. The concept of the Anthropocene has several profound implications that challenge central aspects of the modern worldview. Its relation to issues of global justice requires a cataclysmic reconceptualization of conventional notions of development, economic growth, and technological progress. The article refers to the asymmetric global flows of resources that were a prerequisite to the British Industrial Revolution to illustrate how technological systems and so-called energy transitions are not just politically innocent revelations of nature, but thoroughly societal strategies of appropriation. Contemporary observations regarding environmental justice, climate justice, and energy justice can be theorized in terms of the modern inclination to think of the economy as detached from nature, and of technology as detached from world society.

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Fan Yang, Ting Zhang and Hao Zhang

Developing countries and countries with economies in transition have varying experiences in enforcing their national environmental law. China's judicial interpretations and legislation on environmental protection have established the rules that shift the burden of proof for causation in environmental tort litigation. However, this study of 513 court decisions from the people's courts at different levels in China shows that although the court decisions usually refer to or quote the rules that shift the burden of proof, in most cases the victim-plaintiffs still bear the liability to prove whether the causal relationship exists between the pollution and the harm. This study also finds that Chinese courts defer greatly to the evaluation report in proving causation. It suggests that the court practice of adjudicating environmental tort cases in China values more the factual causation of a pollution incident than the provisions regarding proof of causation stipulated by relevant laws. Consequently, such judicial practices hinder the effectiveness of judicial remedies for pollution victims in China.

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Edited by Ed Couzens, Tim Stephens, Manuel Solis, Saiful Karim and Cameron Holley

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Irene Watson

Colonialism has challenged Aboriginal obligations and relationships to the natural world. This article describes the efforts of First Nations on the continent now known as Australia to maintain their authority and existences in the face of neoliberalism and colonialism, which the British initially inflicted and under which we still survive. The colonial policies of Australia denied our existence and at the same time attempted to demolish our languages and cultures, and to assimilate the consequences. This article asks the questions: what underpins state claims to the title to Aboriginal lands? Does Australia renounce terra nullius and the racist principles and beliefs which make up such a doctrine? And finally does Australia acknowledge and support all ‘Peoples’ as having an inherent right to self-determination, and as a component of such a right, that all ‘Peoples’ have a right to collectively care for their country and to benefit from a relationship to the land which sustains future generations of all Peoples? The possibility of a future for all life forms on earth lies in the responses states might deliver to these questions.

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Edited by Evadne Grant

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Cordelia Christiane Bähr, Ursula Brunner, Kristin Casper and Sandra H Lustig

As older women are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts, a group of senior women in Switzerland founded the association KlimaSeniorinnen Schweiz (Senior Women for Climate Protection Switzerland) in order to fight for ambitious climate action by legally challenging the Swiss government's inadequate climate policies and mitigation measures. The KlimaSeniorinnen filed a legal request with the authorities, claiming that the Swiss authorities are failing to fulfil their duty to protect them as required by the Swiss Constitution and by the European Convention on Human Rights. This article provides a detailed analysis of the KlimaSeniorinnen case within the context of climate litigation worldwide. It argues that the case's human rights arguments, which are grounded in climate science, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Paris Agreement, environmental principles and international law, are generally transferable to almost any country. Therefore, vulnerable individuals and groups can learn from the KlimaSeniorinnen litigation that there are strong legal grounds to bring human-rights-based climate lawsuits against governments and thus governments should expect more litigation if their climate actions or omissions contravene international law and violate constitutional principles.

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Duncan French and Louis J. Kotzé

This chapter provides the context, a broad introduction and the essence of each of the chapters in the book.

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Niko Soininen

Rule of law is a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) seeking to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels (SDG 16). It enjoys wide global support, and within the United Nations system the rule of law is considered paramount for achieving other sustainable development goals, such as the rights to water, food, and energy. While there is much merit to this view, this chapter argues that the rule of law may at times be the single biggest obstacle for achieving the other SDGs. The chapter starts by highlighting the main rule of law theories from which SDG 16 draws, namely formal, procedural and substantive. All three theories require different kinds of certainty that is at odds with the uncertainty of the socio-ecological ‘real’ world. This uncertainty is caused mainly by the lack of scientific data and understanding of biological systems, economic and social risks, and the dynamic and complex nature of socio-ecological systems. If science cannot be certain of how the socio-ecological world operates or will operate, neither can the (rule of) law that seeks to regulate the human–environment interface. The chapter concludes by discussing two categories of legal mechanisms that may be used to reconcile the (rule of law’s) need for certainty, and the uncertainty of the socio-ecological world. In the first line of inquiry it suggests that environmental regulations should be designed to alleviate scientific uncertainty by being adaptive. In the second line of inquiry it suggests courts are required to exercise their discretion in evaluating evidence and interpreting the law. These two mechanisms to tackle scientific uncertainty require major concessions from the rule of law but they need not be its demise. The rule of law trickles down to questions like how well and openly the decisions are reasoned.

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Evan Hamman

The aim of this article is better to understand the relationship Japanese people have with birdlife, wetlands and environmental law. The article uses a case study of the Japanese ‘red-crowned’ crane (the tancho) and Ramsar sites in Eastern Hokkaido to examine Japan's environmental governance systems and actors and the extent to which they utilize the principle of public participation. The topic is significant because of the urgency with which wetlands and birdlife are being lost in East Asia and the impacts such loss will have on communities and national identity. The observations in this article have relevance for neighbouring Asian countries like China and Korea, both of which have their own cultural perceptions and legal protections to consider.

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Edited by Ed Couzens, Tim Stephens and Saiful Karim