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Public Well being, Local weather Change and Strategic Litigation

Public Well being, Local weather Change and Strategic Litigation

Mosquitoes winging their means north throughout Europe bringing dengue. Floods and drownings. Warmth stress. Despair. We’re all conscious of the well being impacts of local weather change. However how can we get governments to behave? Poll field strain (in democracies) doesn’t assure outcomes as shorter-term issues distract from our overheating planet. No simple solutions, however expertise from the environmental motion gives clues and inspiration.

On 7 October the School of Public Well being co-hosted a webinar on Public Well being, Local weather Change and Strategic Litigation (recording now obtainable on-line). It aimed to alert public well being lecturers and practitioners to the alternatives for authorized motion to carry governments and personal sector polluters to account for health-harming air pollution and local weather change.

Moderated by Dr Farhang Tahzib, the webinar attracted over 800 registrations from across the globe. Beginning near house, Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah recounted how air air pollution in London led to the loss of life of her daughter, Ella. Sir Stephen Holgate gave skilled testimony on the coronial enquiry into Ella’s loss of life. He famous how air air pollution is now largely invisible and therefore uncared for – but ‘respiratory clear air is a proper, simply as we have now the proper to wash water.’ Dr Maria Neira, WHO’s local weather change and well being champion, offered the ‘well being argument for local weather motion’ that WHO will take to CoP26.

However governments have lengthy been conscious of the short- and long-term well being impacts of air pollution. What else could be accomplished? Strategic alliances between public well being actors, environmental activists and authorized lecturers and practitioners are utilizing courtroom motion to focus on authorities inaction and business abuses. Marlies Hesselman, lecturer on the College of Groningen, Netherlands, gave a ten-minute ‘strategic litigation 101’, noting 4 current and present circumstances the place governments have been referred to as to reply earlier than worldwide courts and tribunals for well being harms associated to local weather change. Irmina Kotiuk, senior lawyer with ClientEarth’s Clear Air Program, famous the large position for public well being specialists as specialists in strategic litigation – constructing on the expertise of tobacco and asbestos. She urged nurses and docs to gather and file proof in medical information which may later be utilized in skilled testimony.

Richard Harvey, barrister and authorized counsel for Greenpeace, drew parallels between tobacco corporations’ now notorious denials of the hyperlink between smoking and ill-health, and at present’s spin from fossil gas corporations. The Dutch District Court docket in The Hague was not fooled – in a landmark 2021 resolution it ordered Shell to scale back CO2 emissions by 45% by 2030, globally. Dr Marina Romanello, Analysis Director for Lancet Countdown, reiterated the well being impacts of local weather change and the persevering with financing of the destruction of our well being by way of fossil gas business subsidies.

But the Lancet Countdown 2021 report on well being and local weather change: code pink for a wholesome future, makes no reference to the position of the regulation (apart from to the Worldwide Well being Rules), not to mention to the a whole lot of present and up to date authorized circumstances on local weather change alone, simply searchable by way of on-line databases. Restating the issue in ever better element just isn’t a method for change. We have to mix the credibility of exhausting science with the authorized abilities of seasoned nationwide and worldwide litigators and the expertise in social mobilization examined and confirmed by different social actions – all tailored to at present’s on-line, COVID-19 constrained world. Dr Neira remarked that ‘Individuals working within the atmosphere say we have to hear extra from the general public well being group – since you are nonetheless trusted – politicians will take heed to you.’

Bridges between the general public well being, environmental and authorized communities should be strengthened if we’re to ‘preserve 1.5 alive.’ The 7 October webinar was co-hosted by the International Well being Regulation Groningen Analysis Centre and the ‘regulation and public well being’, ‘atmosphere and well being’ and ‘ethics and public well being’ sections of the European Public Well being Affiliation. Part membership is free and never restricted to public well being practitioners or folks resident in Europe.

David Patterson LLM. MSc.
PhD. Candidate
International Well being Regulation Groningen Analysis Centre

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