ClientEarth lawyer Domnique Doyle in London Fields

Coal in Europe – five minutes with an environmental lawyer

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Dominique Doyle is one of our coal lawyers. She came to ClientEarth after a stint as a corporate lawyer, and another at Friends of the Earth. We sat down with her to find out why she joined ClientEarth, what can be done to tackle climate change, and why coal is key in the fight to protect the planet.

Why do you work on coal?

Coal is a huge driver of climate change, and climate change affects everything – farming, food and water security, nature, oceans, human rights – it could be so destructive on so many different levels.

“Law has so much power to fix things in our society that are not working. For me, what is not working is our continued use of fossil fuels.”

Going through law school, I realised pivotal moments in history often hinge on a court case or a new law. Law has so much power to fix things in society that are not working. For me, what is not working is our continued use of fossil fuels, particularly coal, when there are clean alternatives. Coal is terrible for our health, destroys nature and turbo-charges climate change. I want to be at the front of the fightback.

How do you fight coal?

We target the most polluting coal power plants across Europe, and try to create or enforce laws to get them to clean up or shut down. This helps green the energy system, cut emissions and combat climate change. We won’t stop until we win this fight.

Why did you join ClientEarth?

Like a lot of people who work at ClientEarth, my eyes were opened to the destruction of nature in various different ways – books, documentaries, the news. Learning about the extent of environmental breakdown that has happened made me feel so powerless. It made me think – how can I use my skills to try to stop this?

Friends of the Earth really immersed me in the campaigning world. It was such an amazing experience, seeing how passionate everyone was. As a lawyer there, you’re working as an extension of a campaign. Finding an organisation like ClientEarth, which is built around lawyers pursuing crucial cases in their own right, was such an exciting thing for me.

What success have you had so far?

“Thanks to mounting legal, political and public pressure, more than 10% of Europe’s coal power plants have closed in the last three years.”

Just this morning I was on a call with lawyers working all over Europe. Listening to everyone talk – we have lawyers in Poland, Spain, Germany, Greece, Italy and throughout Eastern Europe – we’re all pursuing such critical work against the fossil fuel industry in those countries. Putting that pressure on, not letting any stone go unturned and keeping those industries accountable every step of the way – which they’re not used to at all – that is a huge success.

We’re bringing cases against polluting coal power plants all over Europe. Thanks to mounting legal, political and public pressure, more than 10% of Europe’s coal power plants have closed in the last three years, and over 30% of coal power in Europe has closed, or announced it will close, since 2016.

Are we going to win the fight against coal?

What we do is a crucial part of a huge global effort to fight climate change. We work with everyone from economists to scientists to doctors – so many people using their training and their energy to fight climate change. If you have all these people working together with lawyers like us, I think we have a better chance – that’s what makes it so exciting.

Lawyers at ClientEarth understand how laws are written and we understand the way companies and governments function, because we worked for them in the past – they were our clients. We know what needs to change, and we know how to do it. That’s what drives me every day.

 

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