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EJRU News: Brexit, Permanent People’s Tribunal and David Ciplet Event

5 June 2018
Permanent Peoples' Tribunal on Fracking, first session May 14-18th 2018
Permanent Peoples' Tribunal on Fracking, first session May 14-18th 2018

EJRU and Brexit

A number of EJRU members, particularly in the Law department, have been busy over the last few months presenting their assessment on the impact of Brexit on environmental protection in the UK, and energy and climate cooperation more broadly.

Professor Valerie Fogleman has given presentations on the effects of Brexit on environmental law in the UK at over 10 conferences and workshops including those organised by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the University of Bournemouth and ENDS Report, the University of Surrey, and the Soil and Groundwater Technology Association. The presentations have focused on devolution issues, environmental aspects of the Withdrawal Bill, the effect of Brexit on international environmental conventions ratified by the UK and the EU, UK membership of EU systems and organisations such as the EU Emissions Trading System and the European Chemicals Agency, and supply chain effects.

Valerie suggests that reaction to her presentations on Brexit have differed from reaction to any others she has ever given. Her presentations resulted in strong views for and against the content, highlighting that Brexit remains an emotional and highly divisive issue. She was also surprised by the general lack of knowledge of the effect of Brexit on environmental law in the UK, particularly in respect of devolution. Whilst a lack of knowledge has resulted in delegates wishing to learn from presentations on other topics; this was not the case with presentations on Brexit. The location of the conferences and workshops also reflected the nature of the divisiveness of Brexit, with delegates being strongly for the UK leaving the EU in the North East, roughly 50/50 in the North West, and strongly against leaving in the South.

On the 17th of May, Dr Ricardo Pereira presented a paper assessing the legal foundations and impacts of ‘hard Brexit’ and ‘soft Brexit’ scenarios for the future UK-EU climate and energy cooperation, giving particular emphasis to the implications of Brexit for the implementation of specific EU and UK energy policies including the EU Renewable Energy Directive and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. He presented the paper, ‘Brexit and the Future of UK-EU Climate Change and Energy Cooperation’  at the University of Cambridge, Department of Land Economy, as part of the Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance’s 2017-2018 seminar series.

Professor Ben Pontin is writing a book on the Environmental Case for Brexit: A Socio-Legal Perspective, to be published by Hart later this year. Ben explores the relevance, post-Brexit, of the ‘British way of environmental protection’ – a narrative that emerged in the years leading up to Britain’s EU entry. The term ‘British way’ was coined by Eric Ashby, chair of the Royal Commission on Environmental Policy 1970-1973.

Ben’s work suggests that this approach to environmental protection is outward looking, or international, in the sense of espousing an arrangement in which sovereign nations cooperate to articulate broad moral aspirations regarding the environment, as well as agreeing laws that can be incorporated into domestic law dealing with transnational problems (alongside customary international law principles of state liability for transboundary harm). While parochial in the sense that it treats most challenges as national, or sub-national, to be dealt with – in Britain’s case – within the framework of an unwritten constitution geared around ‘responsible government’, ‘parliamentary sovereignty’ and ‘rule of law’.

Ben argues that the British way is resilient, broadly persisting throughout Britain’s EU membership, but with some notable exceptions that he identifies and which he suggests can be addressed by leaving the EU. This argument is developed with reference to four case studies: waste prevention, water quality, air quality, and habitat conservation.

Fracking, Human Rights and Climate Change

May was a very important month for one of our members, Professor Anna Grear, who has played a central role in the organisation of the Permeant Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT). The PPT is the successor to the post-War Russell Tribunal and held its first session on ‘Fracking, Human Rights and Climate Change’. This was the first time in an international forum that fracking was brought together explicitly with climate change and human rights violations, with leading international jurists sat in judgment on the evidence and arguments presented. This PPT was unprecedented in two other respects. First, this session of the PPT considered the rights of nature alongside, and contextualising, human rights arguments. Secondly, also for the first time, the entire hearing was conducted online, making this PPT session the most inclusive and accessible session ever held. A permanent record of all the sessions is publicly available and viewable here.

The Tribunal drew together an exceptionally rich and well-qualified group of people, including The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, John Knox; Robin Wall Kimmerer, Director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, Cormac Cullinan, communities affected by fracking; and an array of other human rights activists, lawyers and scholars as well as rights for nature advocates and scholars. The judges have now retired, complete with all the information and evidence—which will include a fully transcribed court document of all the sessions—to reflect on their verdict, due to be delivered sometime in September 2018.

The PPT was also accompanied by a lecture series, the Bedrock lectures, which brought together a wide range of thinkers, activists, film makers and others to address the tribunal’s theme. The line up includes Mary Wood, Josh Fox, Anthony Ingrafia, Bill McKibben, Kathleen Dean Moore and others—including our very own, Anna Grear, which is available here.

Latest video-speaker event

On the 9th of May, Dr David Ciplet joined us in Cardiff from Colorado via Skype. It was a great session where David presented the central argument from his co-authored book on  Power in a Warming World (with Timmons Roberts and Mizan R. Khan). He updated and explored the key findings of the book through an analysis of the Paris Agreement, as presented in a recent article with Professor J. Timmons Roberts, on the neoliberalisation of global environmental governance. We all managed to put a few of our own research puzzles and questions to David and enjoyed pulling these apart afterwards over local Welsh wine at the EJRU reception. The talk will soon be available on our listen-again page.

Well, that’s all the news from EJRU for May, but I know some of our other members have exciting items to share next month…