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Citizens must “flood the courts” in fight for climate justice: economist

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The world faces a ticking time bomb in the form of global warming, and recent disasters caused by extreme weather should motivate individuals to urgently seek “climate justice”, said leading U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs.

The U.N. special adviser urged citizens to “flood the courts” with legal cases demanding the right to a safe and clean environment, and to pursue major polluters such as big oil companies and negligent governments for liability and damages.

“Who’s going to rebuild? Who’s going to pay?” asked Sachs, referring to a spate of disasters, including floods and storms, which scientists say are being exacerbated by climate change.

Economic justice is important because communities are not impacted equally by the effects of climate change, he said in a lecture at the London School of Economics on Tuesday evening.

“The poor are always extraordinarily vulnerable to shocks because they have no buffer,” said Sachs. “They don’t have a voice in public policy, so when disasters hit they’re alone.”

Referring to Hurricane Maria, which pummeled the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico last month, cutting power and crippling the lives of 3.4 million residents, Sachs said the Caribbean region had “caused almost nothing of the devastation” but was paying for the damage from increasingly extreme weather.

Instead of patching things up after each crisis, individuals should fight for a legal regime that can respond to predictable and frequent threats, said the Columbia University professor.

Deep-pocketed oil companies – from Exxon Mobil to Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell – should bear the bulk of the legal blame and responsibility, but legal tools could also be used to seek remedy from governments, he argued. FULL ARTICLE

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