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  • Generally, if someone harms you,

  • the law will hold them liable for their actions.

  • But who would you take to court over storms, floods and droughts?

  • This episode will show the ways in which the law

  • is helping us all deal with this increasing problem.

  • The Peruvian farmer taking on a German energy giant over pollution...

  • And how the world around us might get a whole load more legal protection...

  • Humans have been polluting the world for a long time.

  • So, how can you take action about something like climate change?

  • Who would you blame?

  • It's not any one person, company, country, or government's fault...

  • ...or is it?

  • This is Saúl Luciano Lliuya.

  • He's a Peruvian farmer and mountain guide,

  • and for years he has watched a glacier, in nearby Huaraz,

  • melt due to climate change.

  • So, he decided to do something

  • and chose to sue a German energy company, RWE.

  • He's asking for around €17,000

  • to help him cope with climate change.

  • It's a number based on the share of manmade emissions

  • he claims RWE is responsible for.

  • RWE say there's no direct link

  • between them and the melting glaciers.

  • His hope is that his case would make it easier

  • for thousands or even millions of others like him

  • to do the same to protect their homes.

  • And that could mean energy companies are forced

  • to change the way they do business,

  • or risk losing billions of dollars in court.

  • RWE say there's no direct link

  • between emissions in Germany and melting glaciers in Peru.

  • Noah Walker-Crawford, from the University of Manchester,

  • has worked with Saúl's case.

  • He explained why Saúl is taking action.

  • Saúl can see the impacts of climate change in Peru

  • every day with melting glaciers,

  • but he feels like it's not him

  • or it's not Peruvians who have caused this problem,

  • but it's rather big companies in other parts of the world,

  • who've caused climate change through their pollution,

  • and that's why he's taking this German company, RWE, to court,

  • arguing that they've made a big contribution to climate change,

  • which has caused big impacts in Peru.

  • Saúl argues that RWE and other companies

  • have caused climate change, which is affecting him:

  • the melting glaciers are partly their fault.

  • What kind of laws is he using?

  • To try and hold RWE responsible,

  • what Saúl is doing with his lawyers

  • is basically applying neighbourhood law.

  • So, they're using the kind of law you'd use

  • to resolve conflicts between different neighbours.

  • So, basically Saúl is saying to RWE:

  • 'You're my neighbour in a global context,

  • because you're causing me harm or risk of harm via

  • through climate change, and as a neighbour,

  •   you need to take responsibility for this harm you're causing me.'

  • Saúl is using similar law to the kind used

  • to solve arguments between neighbours

  • just in a global way, rather than locally.

  • So, why could this one case be important?

  • So, this lawsuit is obviously only against one company

  • and it's over a small amount of money, around $20,000,

  • which is small change for a big company like RWE.

  • But what this is really about is about setting a precedent.

  • So, about developing legal tools

  • to hold big greenhouse gas emitters, big companies, responsible.

  • And so if Saúl wins this case against RWE,

  • other people who are affected by climate change

  • could use a similar legal approach

  • to sue lots of other companies in lots of other countries.

  • This case could set a precedent:

  • other people would copy Saúl and take on many other companies.

  • So, what could I do, if I had a case like this?

  • If you want to take action on climate change,

  • if you want to go to court,

  • that's a very difficult and complicated approach,

  • because it costs a lot of money and it takes a long time.

  • And actually what we really need is political solutions on climate change,

  • because the solution isn't going to be that everyone

  • who's affected will take a big energy company to court.

  • And what these kinds of lawsuits do, like Saúl's lawsuit,

  • is that they put pressure on politicians to find long term solutions.

  • Going to court takes a lot of time and money in a case like this.

  • Noah wants political solutions to climate change.

  • Saúl's case shows an interesting approach:

  • he's trying to get money he thinks he's owed for damages to his life.

  • But what if you just want to protect the environment itself?

  • Laws are agreements between people or groups of people.

  • By living in a society, I've agreed

  • that if I break the rules, I get punished.

  • We've seen that lawyers are using laws which give rights to people

  • to protect the environment.

  • But that's complicated.

  • What if I want help with a problem like melting ice caps?

  • It's hard to say exactly who's being harmed

  • and how much they're being harmed,

  • so that makes it hard for lawyers to take action.

  • Could that all be about to change?

  • We spoke to lawyer Philippe Sands,

  • who's part of a group that wants the international community

  • to set up a new crime called 'ecocide'.

  • It would sit alongside things like war crimes

  • and crimes against humanity.

  • It would directly protect the environment.

  • He explained more.

  • And our definition of 'ecocide' is unlawful or wanton acts,

  • which a person commits in the knowledge

  • that there is a substantial likelihood

  • of severe damage to the environment,

  • which is also widespread or long-term.

  • So, the heart of it is severe damage to the environment.

  • 'Ecocide' would be breaking the law in a way that meant

  • doing something that seriously damages the environment.

  • Why aren't our current laws good enough?

  • The law tends to lag behind. It follows; it doesn't lead.

  • And environmental consciousness is a new thing.

  • So, we're living today with the laws of the past

  • and this project, defining the crime of 'ecocide',

  • is about updating our laws to the current situation.

  • It takes time for laws to be written.

  • Environmental awareness is relatively new;

  • the law needs to catch up.

  • So, does he think 'ecocide' will become law?

  • It will now be for states, for governments,

  • to decide what to do with it.

  • If five or six governments decide they want to run with this idea,

  • I think it is likely to take off. My sense is that

  • there will be governments who want to run with this idea,

  • so I'm quietly optimistic.

  • International laws need governments to agree to them.

  • If six or seven governments agree, it might be possible.

  • So, what could stop 'ecocide' becoming a crime?

  • There will be a number of countries

  • and a number of corporations, who will be very worried that,

  •   if a crime of ecocide becomes part of international law,

  • they will be targeted.

  • And so the objections will come, I suspect,

  • from countries and corporations who benefit the most

  • from widespread and severe damage to the environment.

  • Companies and countries who damage the environment most

  • might oppose it becoming international law.

  • So, we've seen how some people can take on the people

  • they think are behind climate change,

  • in an effort to get widespread change.

  • And if the crime of 'ecocide' enters international law,

  • courts could have whole new powers

  • to protect us and our world.

Generally, if someone harms you,

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    林宜悉 posted on 2021/10/20
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