As climate scientists issue their last cautions about the future of our planet, climate activists are growing increasingly resolute in their efforts to bring about change, regardless of the consequences. Their demonstrations are becoming more contentious and disruptive as they strive to capture the attention of legislators, major corporations, and the general public in their quest to safeguard the planet. While the escalation of protests also raises the likelihood of legal repercussions, legal experts are beginning to express their support for climate activists, as evidenced by 140 prominent lawyers signing a “Declaration of Consciousness.”
“I cannot reword.”
Out of moral conviction, they will cease providing their legal assistance to (1) fresh fossil fuel initiatives and (2) any legal proceedings involving nonviolent climate activists.
The signatories to the Declaration include 140 prominent lawyers from the United Kingdom and around the world, including many from countries in the Global South who will face the worst impacts of the climate crisis, such as South Africa, Australia, Mexico, Guyana and the Philippines.
Lawyers acknowledge their involvement in contributing to the destruction of the climate.
The group’s press release emphasized the role of the legal industry in causing climate change, specifically mentioning the significant impact of lawyers in facilitating $1.62 trillion worth of transactions within the fossil fuel sector from 2017 to 2022.
They contend that legal professionals should not only cease their endorsement of the fossil fuel industry, but also decline to assist in the prosecution of nonviolent climate change activists – a trend that is growing more prevalent.
Melinda Janki, Attorney-at-Law in Guyana and declaration signatory, said:
“I implore my fellow legal professionals to unite with me and other attorneys who are at the forefront of the battle to maintain the principles of justice and safeguard our nations and environment from the harmful consequences of fossil fuels. I urge you to take a firm stance and refuse to be accomplices in the destruction of our ecosystem and the inevitable loss of human lives.”
Police and courts have been targeting peaceful climate protesters.
As groups like Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil and Insulate Britain ramp up their efforts to garner support for better climate practice, they are often met by heavy handed police and disproportionate legal punishment. Four Just Stop Oil activists, arrested for blocking a London road, were convicted this year of causing a public nuisance. The group of men were sentenced to 260 hours of unpaid work in total, and made to pay a combined £7,500 in prosecution costs.
Earlier this year in Germany, demonstrators who were attempting to protect the village of Luetzerath from being demolished to make room for a new coal field allegedly faced severe physical assault by German law enforcement, resulting in a minimum of 20 individuals being hospitalized.
One week before the release of the declaration by Lawyers are Responsible, reports from Australia stated that two German students are set to be deported back to their native land for blocking access to Sydney’s seaport. Federal Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, seemingly missing the point, denounced the actions of the two Germans as “attention-seeking”.
The assistance of legal professionals, like those in Lawyers are Responsible, is crucial as activists worldwide strive to prevent humanity’s path towards disaster.
Shell, the perpetrators of climate change, face a defeat as activists and legal professionals emerge victorious.
Dutch fossil fuel giant Shell, who place 7th in global rankings for greenhouse gas emissions by companies between 1965 and 2018, produced 32,498 million tons of CO2 equivalent during this period. While they claim to be aiming for carbon neutrality through a transition to green energy by 2050, they are accused of greenwashing and playing fast and loose with the truth surrounding their climate practices. While they claim to be working towards achieving net-zero, they contradict themselves through continual new investment in oil and gas projects. The International Energy Agency stated in 2021 that no new oil and gas projects were compatible with achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
ClientEarth, a group of environmental lawyers who have a stake in Shell, presented an argument to the English High Court based on conflicting practices. They contend that Shell lacks an appropriate plan to meet climate goals as the global community shifts away from fossil fuels. The group asserts that if the company fails to transition effectively to clean energy, it may be left behind as fossil fuels become obsolete. This is a valid argument from an investor’s perspective. The lawsuit targets Shell’s 11 directors and sets a precedent by holding corporate directors accountable for not adequately preparing their company for the transition to net zero emissions.
This is a prime example of collaboration between activism and the legal field to address climate destruction instead of endorsing it. It offers hope for future advancements in this area, with the assistance of organizations such as Lawyers are Responsible.