New climate group to drive Australian policy change
In early March Sydney University’s Faculty of Law launched a new multidisciplinary initiative – the Climate Law & Policy Group.
In line with recent developments – the UK’s Stern Report in 2006, reevaluation of the Kyoto Protocol during 2007 and Australia’s current review process under Professor Ross Garnaut – the initiative aims to fill critical voids within current thinking and activity, both locally and internationally.
Key organisers Professor Gillian Triggs, Dean of Law at Sydney University, and Dr. Rosemary Lyster, an internationally respected teacher and practitioner of environmental law, spoke briefly of the new group’s reason for existence.
They identified the need to transverse various branches of law – administrative, environmental, international, trade, migration, taxation, corporate, criminal and public health – in making way for the emerging field of climate law and preparing legal infrastructure for an all-embracing response to the growing challenge of climate change.
With Australia’s emission trading scheme due to launch in 2010 and with Kyoto having so far failed to adequately engage developing countries, this first-of-its-kind initiative will work with individuals and governments to develop research projects and policy.
Keynote speaker John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute, addressed the lawyers, academics, NGOs, Justices and students who came to hear his insider’s account of last year’s Bali negotiations and their implications for Australia. Though unsurprisingly absent, environmental barrister extraordinaire, Chris McGrath, did receive an honourable mention as the legal frontiersman keeping the Australian government falling over its legislative toes.
Connor signalled that there are powerful undercurrents building within global negotiations. Developed nations may yet group together to go beyond currently tentative Kyoto targets to cut their carbon emissions by between 25 and 40 per cent by 2020. He identified 2020 as the proving ground, the year by which bold initiatives must be taken and, if successful, replicated on a grand scale.
He said China and South Africa were leading the negotiations to build bridges with the developed world, while Australia is crossing a bridge of her own. The American position of controlled stalling has been rejected, traded for the quantum leap of the Garnaut Review and its broader consideration of the national interest in responding to climate change.
The way forward mapped out by these pragmatists seems to be a multi-layered paradigm shift already set in motion, from changes taking place in local planning laws and research financing to regional partnerships and global transparency and accountability.
The Climate Law & Policy Group’s first conference will be held on August 8.