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SPIEGEL climate report: Why the island states are now going to court


Disappointed by the results of the climate summit, an alliance of island states now wants to demand compensation - if necessary in court. They say: whoever pollutes has to pay. The weekly overview of the climate crisis.

Dear readers,

For some island states in the world, the climate crisis is not a threat to the future, but a present one.

Tuvalu is in the Pacific, halfway between Hawaii and Australia.

Palau belongs to Micronesia, is north of Indonesia, east of the Philippines.

Antigua and Barbuda is a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean on the border with the Caribbean.

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The sea does not have to completely wash over the islands of these states to make life there difficult.

The number of storms, tidal waves and heavy rain is already increasing, while droughts are becoming more and more frequent.

And the rising sea level is already causing an increase in the salt content of the groundwater and, as a result, falling crop yields.

Global warming of more than 1.5 degrees - and the world is heading towards it fairly clearly - means for many residents of this and other island states: They will have to leave their homes.

And if they don't have to, then their children and grandchildren have to.

The climate crisis hits them earlier and harder than many other regions of the world.

According to a definition by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), the small island states in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans are almost without exception at risk.

They are responsible for less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Damage caused by others

The climate summit in Glasgow did not live up to all the hopes that rested on the meeting - no clear end to the use of fossil fuels, no binding financial commitments, no rules that bring the world much closer to the 1.5 degree target.

Representatives and negotiators of the Pacific states spoke of a "monumental failure" after the end of COP26, as the British newspaper "The Guardian" reported.

And yet the summit changed some things: Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, and Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, signed an agreement on the first day of the UN climate conference.

A little later, the island state of Palau also joined.

This agreement establishes the establishment of a commission of the small island states - the "Commission of Small Island Developing States on Climate Change and International Law".

The aim of the commission is to force the big greenhouse gas emitters by legal means to pay a price for the destruction of the island states.

How is that supposed to work?

The island states can appeal to the International Court of Justice

On the one hand, the Commission of Island States can ask the International Court of Justice - the main judicial body of the United Nations based in The Hague - for an opinion on whether states can be held liable for the effects of their emissions on other countries.

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Such an opinion would not have any legally binding informative value.

In view of the increasing number of lawsuits worldwide in the context of the climate crisis, however, it is entirely justified to hope that it could give new weight to the demands of the island states.

Alternatively, the island states can also try to obtain an opinion from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg.

The chances of success are not that bad: courts have repeatedly made decisions in the past few months in terms of climate protection.

You know more now than you did in the 1980s

"In the 1980s there may have been a time when we did not know what the consequences of global warming would be." This is what attorney Payam Akhavan, who supports the Commission of Small Island States as legal advisor, said, according to a report by the " Washington Post «.

“But now we know.

And it does irreparable damage to the island states. "

How can this damage be measured?

If a state goes under, if its residents have to relocate to other countries, what does it cost?

Finding an answer to that is step two.

Step one - who has to pay for this damage - is easier to determine.

Akhavan said: "Those who pollute have to pay."

If you like, we will inform you once a week about the most important things about the climate crisis - stories, research results and the latest developments on the biggest topic of our time.

You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

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Stay confident

Your Viola Kiel

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2021-11-18

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