BN1 Chats with TIM CROSLAND

Plan B director takes government to court over climate change, with the help of three Sussex students.

Last year Tim Crosland and three young people with families in Ghana, Nigeria, the Caribbean and Mexico, took the UK government to court for infringing on their right to life by not complying with the Paris Agreement.

Kobina Jerry Amokwandoh (22), Adetola Onamade (24) and Marina Tricks’ (20) were hoping to uphold the government’s obligation to safeguard the lives and family life of its people and to do so without discrimination (Convention Articles 2, 8 and 14). They attest that the government is not acting in its citizen’s best interests by ensuring that the planet does not exceed 1.5 ˚C of warming, as stated in the Paris agreement. They say their families are being directly impacted by climate change and this infringes on their Right to Family Life.

They are seeking to prove that the defendants; The Prime Minister, The Chancellor Of The Exchequer, and The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, have acted illegally in their policies by not ensuring that we do not exceed 1.5 degrees of warming.

Tim Crosland the director of Plan B; the group that led the case in the courts, also led protestors in the streets, waving the now infamous green flag adorned with the black hourglass, as well as the documentation heralding the Judge’s decision to the masses. The former stuck him in the back of a police van and the latter in contempt of court.

In the Autumn of last year, the case was rejected first by the Supreme Court which held that there was no arguable case that the Government has a legal obligation to address the threat to the public. The small team are now taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights to join other climate cases. Tim is hoping for a significant precedent which would force governments into action.

The European Convention of Human Rights never anticipated the climate crisis when it was drafted in 1945, Judge Spanner, President of Strasburg court, told the world a few years ago. A precedent in one of the most powerful courts of Human Rights would have influence in the world’s courtrooms but it would not be the silver bullet to save us all.

Delusion is a word which comes up a lot when you search Tim Crosland. There is a provocative clip of him being grilled at COP26 by Sky’s Adam Boulton. Again and again, Tim tells Adam that not enough is being done to confront the climate crisis. Adam’s clipped smile labels him childish and delusional. His remarks cut deeper as the segment continues. He tells Tim that this is not how geopolitics works, that scientists and politicians have made “significant progress” through existing structures and diplomatic infrastructure.

But Tim understands geopolitics and the economic and political underpinnings of the climate crisis. His case is based off complex economic and political theory around growth and political responsibility. Such resistance, Tim believes, is because of the type of campaign this is. It differs from historical civil rights movements which expanded the right to vote, to marriage or to property. These battles had clear demarcated lines between good and evil. To fight for the LGBTQIA+ right to marriage was to ask for one group to have something that another had.

“What we’re doing is, in a way challenging something very fundamental to the overarching ideology, which is based on the carbon economy. And based on infinite growth, we’ve just got to keep growing and growing, because that’s the only way we service our debts. That’s the only way we can counter inflation, or whatever it is. And what we’re proposing is somehow a challenge to that. This is threatening to that entire carbon-based, carbon addicted, growth addicted order…”

If Tim, Amokwandoh, Onamade and Tricks get this passed in Strasburg, how it will play out in real life is also guesswork.

Tim has utilised the metaphor of post-911 to explain how the Government would implement legislation to confront the climate crisis.

“Suddenly, what the government does, following the US lead is to introduce legislation around terrorist financing, and proceeds of crime and suddenly, all financial institutions have to conduct due diligence tests. And I’m not saying that’s an unproblematic example, it might be a problematic example, in all kinds of ways. But it’s an example of governments acting quite quickly to require financial institutions to undertake due diligence. So of course, it can be done.”

Many turned on the news on 11 Sept 2001 to find a changed world. The changes that came were immediate and extreme. Answers to the unarguable threat of terror came unfiltered through the upper echelons of government, uncontested from the people or large corporations. Dramatic political changes were justified because of the perceived threat awaiting western ‘democracies’ from a shared enemy.

“What we’re doing is, in a way challenging something very fundamental to the overarching ideology, which is based on the carbon economy. And based on infinite growth, we’ve just got to keep growing and growing, because that’s the only way we service our debts. That’s the only way we can counter inflation, or whatever it is. And what we’re proposing is somehow a challenge to that. Well, that’s, that’s very different. I mean, this is threatening to, to that entire, you know, carbon-based, carbon addicted, growth addicted order.

And I think there is a very real question about whether the establishment can make the necessary changes politically; I don’t mean whether it can Constitutionally. But I mean, whether politicians who have got into the position that they’re in can make the decisions that need to be made with the processes we’ve got… I think it was probably quite difficult for one of those politicians to come out and say, ‘Yeah, you know, I’m not sure we can keep growing the economy.”

The tone Tim uses to talk about the climate is of someone who has long listened to the prophetic proclamations of an earnest religious sermon to an unsettled church congregation. It is like he expects a fidgety audience who do not often grace the pews and have been forced there because of cultural conventions surrounding Easter or Midnight mass. His words are perfectly writeable, no likes or buts, almost as if he is expecting to be misquoted by a ruffled journalist.

His position is one of a ‘goodie’ though, surely. He is taking the government to court over their inability to protect its citizens from global warming. Why, then, does he have such resistance from journalists, politicians, judges and citizens?

At the moment climate change is so deeply connected to western economies that to demand any change is to sever the nets hauling in such profit. Those at the top of the net also have a political agenda, and according to Adam Boulton from Sky News also have a responsibility to geopolitics and international order.

By suing the government over the Right to Family Life, on the premise that their families live in countries affected most by climate change, is acting in the absence of international convention surrounding issues of responsibility. If their case gets passed in the Strasburg court this will act not only as an international legal precedent but also as a moral precedent over whose job it is to sort out climate change. Clearly, something not many judges are willing to do. Tim hopes that it would get to the European Court of Human Rights for this point alone.

When Tim first started with Plan B, he was working closely with a few Sussex students, two of whom were claimants in their first case. He just happened to meet them at a conference in Brighton on climate and the law. The relationship grew from there and they became involved in Plan B’s legal case against the government. They discussed why people did not care enough about the planet, and they told him that trying to get university students’ attention at that moment would be futile as there were too many conflicting issues going on. A few months later XR was born, and Tim joined them because he didn’t believe any real change could be made without “mass mobilisation”.

But even if the case is won in the European Court of Human Rights, and the world mobilises together to confront the crisis, steadfast change is not set to come. Plan B outline this in their alternative chronology of events on their website;

25 million years ago

The last time temperature on Earth was 4˚C in excess of pre-industrial levels”

They draw on key political events to frame the crisis in terms of responsibility;

1441

Start of European enslavement of Afrikans in Africa. The Portuguese captains Antão Gonçalves and Nuno Tristão capture 12 Afrikans in Cabo Branco (modern Mauritania) and traffick them to Portugal.

1884/5

Representatives of all the colonial powers of Europe and America meet in Berlin at the Berlin Conference, convened by Otto von Bismarck, to divide Africa into 50+ countries, and arbitrarily draw up borders that exist to this day, most of which cut across the logic of nationality, geography, language, culture and other unifying factors.

1956

New York Times runs the headline: ‘Warmer Climate on Earth May be due to More Carbon Dioxide in the Air’

March 2021

The Public Accounts Committee says the government has “no plan” to meet its climate targets.

2050

4˚C?

The grounds for defence from the defendants; Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, HM Treasury and the Prime Minister were:

“Even if a positive obligation does arise on which any of the Claimants could rely: I. the overnment is plainly doing enough to comply with it; and ii. the Court should afford the Government a wide margin of discretion in this area given the complex and cross-cutting nature of tackling climate change; the choice of means is a matter for the Government.

And “The claim itself does not challenge any particular policy or decision but is an attack on the Government’s programme of legislation and policy across an array of economic, social and environmental spheres, alleging failures to meet a “positive obligation” to take measures to prevent breaches of the Claimants’ rights.”

If the courts decide in favour of the claimants, the responsibility to not exceed 1.5 degrees of warming will fall into government’s hands. But the existing inertia of the government, despite the issue already residing in their realm of responsibility, forewarns us that this culture of responsibility will persist beyond any successful court cases.

You can follow the appeal at www.planb.earth

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