The Force Of Law, On Top Of Information & Protest

A protest in Marseille against the French supermarket chain Groupe Casino for allegedly selling meat products linked to deforestation. Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty

What can we do when commercial interests damage our collective future? The identification of and protest against companies doing business in ways that cause environmental destruction are two important forces, but the force of law is another. Thanks to the Guardian for its ongoing coverage of these:

Legal eagles: how climate litigation is shaping ambitious cases for nature

Plans for an airport in the Tagus estuary have failed to take into account its impact on the wetlands, lawyers argue. Photograph: Handout

Environmental lawsuits are nothing new but now lawyers are turning their attention to cases that address the loss of biodiversity

The Tagus estuary near Lisbon is Portugal’s largest wetland, a vital habitat and stopover for tens of thousands of migratory birds, including flamingos, black-tailed godwits and glossy ibis. It has also been earmarked as the site of a new airport, leading the environmental law charity ClientEarth and a group of Portuguese NGOs to sue Portugal’s government. When they get their day in court, they will argue that the authorities failed to properly consider how the project would affect an internationally protected nature reserve, and the knock-on effects on other countries visited by the birds.

“If you destroy that site, you have an impact not only in Lisbon, but on all the sites up the flyway,” says Anna Heslop, head of wildlife and habitats at ClientEarth. “If the bird populations don’t arrive, they never get breeding.”

While environmental lawsuits are not a new phenomenon – the earliest known case, a dispute over water resources, dates back 4,500 years – campaigners are thinking more deeply about how they can tackle the complex problem of modern biodiversity loss.

Heslop says litigants are increasingly looking beyond a single site or narrow issue. “Those older school cases will continue. What we aim to do is to have a bigger impact across the whole, like every site in Europe or south-east Asia, or to push governments to be more ambitious. The trick for us is finding cases that will have a more strategic impact; I don’t think that was happening on the same scale before.”…

Read the whole article here.

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