Meet Earth’s Lawyer | WIRED

Marjanac said ClientEarth’s interpretation of fiduciary duties has never been applied before, but she believes that will change. “The fiduciary duty is about prudent risk management. Human rights are about the inherent dignity of the individual. The crises of the modern world are the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis. It is natural that the law will strengthen and regulate.”

IN CASE of Torres Strait Islanders, Marjanac and ClientEarth turned to Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects an individual’s right to participate in and enjoy their culture.

Article 27 was originally designed to protect minorities against genocide and colonial mismanagement after World War II, but ClientEarth has sought to adapt and expand these protections. his guard.

In September 2019, Marjanac presented a petition to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, a body of 18 legal experts that oversees compliance with the treaty and acts as a de facto court. (it does not have enforcement powers, but states generally abide by treaty rulings).

ClientEarth argued that the Australian government’s failure to protect the fragile ecosystems of the Torres Strait infringed upon the islanders’ Article 27 rights to their culture and their Article 17 rights to be free from abuse. interfere with privacy, family and housing. “We all have the right to family, homeland and culture according to international law,” said Marjanac. “When I was there, even the children said, ‘If we have to leave the island, we can’t leave our loved ones behind, we can’t leave our grandparents and great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather behind. .’”

The Australian government fought back. In August 2020, it asked the committee to dismiss the case, denying that climate change was affecting the human rights of the islanders and that — because Australia was not a major contributor or solely on global warming — the effects of climate change on their citizens are not its liability under human rights law. Later that year, UN legal experts agreed with the islanders, but the Australian government doubled down, arguing it was doing enough to combat climate change and its future impacts. The future is too uncertain to need action.

Pending the final decision of the United Nations, ClientEarth continues to put pressure on governments and organizations around the world. In July 2022, as the UK sweated over record temperatures, the Supreme Court ruled in the country’s favor, finding that the government’s no-grid strategy violated the Variables Act. climate change and needs to be reinforced. The charity has brought up cases in Poland from farmers, business owners and parents suing the government for failing to reduce greenhouse gases. There is legal action looming in France over corporate plastic pollution by nine of the country’s biggest food companies.

Clarke and her team are helping the EU strengthen anti-deforestation laws and advising the Supreme Court of China on how to advance the Belt and Road Initiative. “We really knew we were winning when it came to a point where all we needed to say was, ‘Don’t make me write another letter,’” she said.

Finally, in September 2022—three years after the original complaint—the United Nations Human Rights Commission agreed to ClientEarth’s new interpretation of human rights to climate change. Australia has violated the right to culture and freedom from interference with privacy, family and housing. The Commission has asked the Australian government to compensate the islanders “for the damage they have suffered, to engage in meaningful consultations to assess their needs and take measures to ensure the safe existence of their communities.”

Marjanac says securing the funds will take time, but the ruling means other low-lying areas finally have legal recourse in their fight for survival. The Committee specifically rejected Australia’s claim that individual countries cannot be held accountable for the effects of climate change and agreed that international environmental obligations are a human rights issue.

It was early evening in Torres Strait when the news reached Yessie Mosby. “I have tears of joy in my eyes and I know my ancestors are also rejoicing,” he said. “I know it’s not the end, but I know that a lot of doors have been opened. I was very happy because I would not be a refugee. No one on Earth should ask their children to put their grandmother’s remains in a bucket.”

This article was originally published in the January/February 2023 issue of WIRED UK magazine.


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