We are at a turning point. The Paris conference drew to a momentous close in December and the world has unanimously agreed: law, policy and public opinion need to come together in Earth’s defence and the people that live on it.
This is exactly what we do. Our work is crucial for the planet and we already have big plans for 2016. “But how are you going to top your enormous 2015 legal victories on air pollution in the UK and elsewhere in Europe?” we hear you cry. Well, by doing it again, to start with. But there’s more. We asked our lawyers what they’re aiming for this year.
1 ENERGY: Renewing ideas in Poland
Renewables have been bumped some way down the political agenda in Poland following the elections. But ClientEarth’s energy team in Warsaw is working hard to keep Poland in step with the post-COP energy vision.
Climate and Energy Lawyer Agata Bator is keen to see Poland adopt an act on energy efficiency that’s ambitious, compels companies to comply, raises awareness of the benefits for consumers – and doesn’t settle for the weakest possible solutions. The savings made by being energy efficient, she says, can be seen as a fifth fuel.
2 ENERGY: The no-coal goal
Most have by now accepted that coal has no place in our energy future. We’re aiming to launch a series of successful litigation cases to help it on its way.
According to Susan Shaw, EU energy and coal lawyer in our UK team: “Our litigation will ensure governments and companies are held to account for the choices they make in the energy and environmental fields – and make sure that the polluter will pay.”
3 OCEANS: Making fishing sustainable, by law
The EU has committed to strong measures to protect our fish stocks – but a landmark win is under threat.
The reformed Common Fisheries Policy makes the pursuit of sustainable fishing in Europe a legal requirement, with a deadline of 2020. But in the first test of implementing this the Council of Ministers is trying to water down the commitment for fisheries in the Baltic.
However, the European Parliament is fighting back to protect Baltic fish stocks. We want the Parliament to keep up its efforts and push to keep this crucial plan as strong as was intended.
4 WILDLIFE: Protecting Poland’s ancient forests
The Białowieża forest is under threat. The new Polish government plans to raise logging limits by 500% more than plans for 2012-2021 originally allowed. ClientEarth will be working hard to make sure Natura 2000 sites such as the Białowieża forest are protected and managed as intended, and these ancient trees are kept safe.
For more thoughts on our EU wildlife and biodiversity plans, take a look at our blog
5 FORESTS: Looking after forest law further afield
“Building on our experience and knowledge so far from working in Ghana, Gabon and Republic of Congo over the past three years, we’re looking ahead in 2016 to starting work in Ivory Coast and Liberia as well,” says Emily Unwin, Senior Lawyer in our Forest team. “We will be working with civil society to support engagement in legal reform processes to improve forest governance.”
6 TOXICS: Saving the bees
More chemicals emerge every year, and with them, evidence of the dangers of what we’re already using. Over the years, evidence has mounted against neonicotinoid pesticides for their harmful effects on bee colonies. Our Toxics lawyer Tess Crean wants to see the EU heed the US’s evidence and uphold the ban on imidacloprid.
7 TRADE: Making sure TTIP’s toeing the line
The planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) raised a lot of questions in 2015. By allowing more ‘free’ trade between the US and Europe, it leaves certain EU standards vulnerable.
Our EU Trade and Environment lawyer Laurens Ankersmit wants to see a Member State or the European Parliament formally enquire whether ISDS – a mechanism for resolving trade disputes – is legal. If it’s not, it would prevent the agreement entering into force.
8 DEMOCRACY: Helping people protect their environment
Underpinning all ClientEarth’s work is the idea of environmental democracy, upheld through the Aarhus Convention. But how many people are aware of their right to have a say?
Anne Friel is an expert in our democracy team. “Everyone should know about the access rights provided by the Aarhus Convention – it would ensure the greening of every sphere of activity in our society,” she says. “And this awareness should be among the public and decision-makers alike.”
9 AIR: Letting Europe breathe more freely
The UK government’s new air quality plans aren’t good enough – and they don’t comply with the Supreme Court’s orders. We’ll be back to court to demand the UK protects the nation’s health, now.
Meanwhile, we’ll be rolling out the biggest ever wave of clean air cases across Europe – starting with Germany. So expect to see cases launched in three further European countries as well as the UK.
10 CLIMATE: Financially speaking
Climate risk will take centre stage in the investment world in 2016. It’s already reshaping the energy market and will drive the transition to a low-carbon economy. Our Company and Finance team was new last year and is coming into its own.
We’re looking at how reliably companies are telling their investors about climate risk. A lack of transparency in this regard will lead to serious competitive disadvantage. Come April, the ClientEarth Company and Finance team will be examining corporate reporting from carbon intensive companies to see whether business is being carried out ‘as usual’ – because if it is, it shouldn’t be.
And so, onwards into 2016! We have our work cut out for us, but we have never been more excited about doing it.