Climate change threat to rule of law: bar association

May 1st, 2008 - 5:48 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, May 1 (IANS) Climate change is a threat to the rule of law, and the Bar Association of India (BAI) may take on the government over the issue, its general secretary Lalit Bhasin said here Thursday. On the eve of a two-day national conference on Climate Change and the Role of Law being organised here by BAI, Bhasin said: “The rule of law is being threatened by the catastrophic changes” being caused by global warming.

“As the sea level rises (due to global warming), there will be mass exodus from the coastal regions. That will affect peace and security on a global basis.”

The conference, to be attended by at least 220 bar association representatives from around the country, would essentially be a “brainstorming session on the implications of climate change, not only to India but to the globe as a whole, because climate change has no boundaries”.

Bhasin said BAI appealed to the international community to enforce “certain basic principles that are mandatory for all countries”.

The Indian government has opposed mandatory caps on carbon dioxide emissions by developing countries. Bhasin shrugged when this was pointed out to him. Asked if BAI would take the government to court on this, he replied: “We do it all the time.”

India has over 200 laws meant to safeguard the environment, “but they need strict implementation”, Bhasin said.

R.K.P. Shankardass, former president of the International Bar Association and now one of the BAI vice presidents, said: “The entire issue of climate change is still being approached on a government-to-government basis, where there are understandable differences over emission rights. We cannot really reach agreement like this.

“We have to see what we’re doing in India, because if climate change is not addressed those very poor people whose lives we’re trying to improve will be the worst affected.”

Shankardass said climate change was a violation of peoples’ fundamental rights. “If we take away their land, their ability to earn a livelihood, how are they to live?”

Bhasin said there was need for a “global legal framework” to tackle climate change, and the forthcoming conference was the “first such modest effort in this direction. We’ll then take it to a regional, then a global level”.

Asked if any of the over-200 environment protection laws in India needed to be updated, BAI treasurer Priya Hingorani said: “All of them have to be reviewed and rationalised. Sometimes they overlap, which gives violators a leeway.”

BAI expects to adopt a declaration at the end of the conference, which says: “Climate change is a threat to the rule of law. The current legal systems do not properly take into account the complexities of the consequences of global warming….”

“We call upon national governments, state/regional governments and municipal regulators to make strict and stringent laws and regulations and to enforce these with a firm hand to reduce carbon emissions, increase the energy efficiency of motor vehicles and to set up carbon markets;

“We call upon governments of the day to work on a global climate treaty to take immediate action such as public financing for new technologies to capture emissions of carbon dioxide and pump them underground, and to start a global fund to assist countries to avoid deforestation;

“The existing legal institutions governing environmental management, and legal regimes governing the management of water need to be upgraded and strengthened so that effective legal mechanisms are put in place….”

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