G8 must help poor countries cope with climate change, set up adaptation fund

Bangkok, THAILAND – Major greenhouse gas emitters must help poor countries cope with climate change while recognizing the human rights and gender aspects of climate change, a panel of judges ruled at the Asian People’s Climate Court in Bangkok on Tuesday.

The verdict outlined that there is a legal basis for reparation claims on the basis of existing international legal standards and conventions – to make good for damage in developing countries resulting from climate impacts which are triggered by historic emissions from industrialized countries.

The Bangkok court room for this two-hour mock-hearing organized by the Tcktcktck campaign was filled to the last chair when presiding judge Amara Pongsapich, Chair of the Thai Human Rights Commission, ruled that G8 countries have to set up a global adaptation fund with sufficient finance for poor nations.

“Defendants have threatened and continue to threaten petitioners’ right to life and the sources of life, thus committing planetary malpractice resulting in inter-generational damages,” said judge Pongsapich. “They have broken about a dozen international agreements, for example by breaching their duty not to cause harm or their obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

The ruling against the G8 plaintiffs came after prosecution and defense had interviewed ten witnesses, among them two climate scientists and affected citizens such as Thai and Bangladeshi farmers, a Nepalese mountain climber, a Filipino fisherman and an Indonesian women’s advocate.

The presidium of judges in this case of the children of Asia and the Pacific versus the G8 also instructed the plaintiffs to initiate a process of setting up an international tribunal on environmental crimes and appoint a special rapporteur on the human rights dimension of climate change. The court concluded, however, that “the duty to protect human rights is the obligation of every state”.

Chief-Prosecutor Antonio Oposa, a leading environmental lawyer from The Philippines and recipient of the 2009 Ramon Magsaysay Award – the Asian equivalent of the Nobel prize – said he was satisfied with the verdict and urged the G8 countries to follow up on the ruling with agreeing to a fair, ambitious and binding climate treaty at the Copenhagen Summit this December.

“The Asian People’s Climate Court is an experiment to show that there is a legal basis for developing countries to sue industrialized nations and demand reparation for damages resulting from climate change”, said Oposa. “While our mock-trial has shown that the legal grounds exist, we would prefer to see rapid G8 action to reduce emissions and fund adaptation in vulnerable countries, rather than a string of future climate trials about compensation for damage that can still be avoided if we act today.”

The testimonies by affected witnesses whose lives and livelihoods depend on effective action to tackle climate change as well as measures to adapt to unavoidable impacts had given the court and about 150 people in the audience a clear sense that emissions from industrialized countries over the past 200 years clearly show the culpability of G8 countries for global warming and hardships inflicted on Asia.

“The storms and floods across Asia these days remind us of the huge threats people in this region are facing already”, said Oxfam climate change spokesperson Clement Kalonga. “Climate change will make things only worse, and as judges at the Asian People’s Climate Court found that the G8 are responsible for the problem, we urge them to live up their responsibilities at the UN climate talks in Bangkok and put sufficient finance for adaptation in developing countries on the table.

“First and foremost though, developed countries have a responsibility to make much deeper cuts in emissions.  We also need a global climate regime that delivers more than $150bn per year in public finance – over and above existing aid commitments -- to help developing countries cope with floods, droughts, storms and disasters, and cut their future emissions growth,” he said.  “But without having committed to anything themselves, rich countries keep pushing developing countries to act. That’s not justice, and if they carry on this way this week’s hearing shows it could become a crime.”

Notes to editors

  • The tribunal was organized by civil society groups throughout the region which comprise the Global Coalition for Climate Action (GCCA) and Asia Pacific People’s Movement for Debt and Development (APMDD). It is supported by 25-30 organizations throughout South and East Asia, and especially assisted by the Thai Working Group on Climate Justice and the lawyers’ network Global Legal Action on Climate Change (GLACC) and Aid for Development.
  • Go to http://www.tcktcktck.org for a copy of the verdict and witness testimonies.

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