Of legal beagles and climate change views

Please note, post updated 10/9/2015 10:11 PM below -hro

Paul Matthews has a post today in which he features Robin Guenier’s response (pdf) to Philipe Sands’ September keynote address to various and sundry (for the most part unnamed) legal beagles and (presumably) associated scholars.

I appreciated Guenier’s analysis and highlights from Sands’ lecture. My own impression, after viewing this 90-minute video (see bottom of this post), was that Sands’ actual knowledge and/or grasp of the “science” to which he attributes his apparent change of heart was extremely superficial.

IOW, the best Sands could muster on the ‘knowledge of the science’ front were some quotes from the (considerably less than adequate) Summary for Policy Makers (SPM) of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). I was even less impressed with whatever “research” he might have conducted during the course of writing his epistle.

Sands’ first Footnote in the written version, as I’ve recently noted in a comment here, did nothing to enhance my impression of his grasp of the key issues or of the science:

In preparing this lecture I have been greatly assisted by Luis Viveros, LLM candidate at UCL, and by the very fine conference paper authored by Emily Barritt, Liz Fisher and Eloise Scotford, ‘Adjudicating the Future: Climate Change and Legal Disruption’ (2015, unpublished).

But, on the bright side, during the course of my (to date) fruitless search for this “very fine conference paper”, I did come across a somewhat more measured summary of the conference proceedings written by U of Reading’s Prof. Chris Hilson – whose CV suggests that he has far more knowledge of the actual history of the UNFCCC proceedings than Sands. His summary of Sands:

Having expressed slight scepticism about such involvement some years ago, Professor Sands was now firmly of the view that the International Court of Justice and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea would in the near future be called upon to address climate-related disputes and that they should not shy away from dealing with such cases. The symbolic role of climate change adjudication – with its potential to acknowledge climate change as a global emergency – should not, he thought, be underestimated.

And, for the record, Hilson’s summary of the three days of deliberations concludes by noting:

The symposium ended with a working lunch in which the organisers attempted to draw out some of the core issues which had emerged over the previous three days. One thing that became evident as part of this process was that academics, judges and practitioners all come at climate change adjudication with their own distinct priorities and perspectives, albeit with a number of areas of agreement. In that respect, it was not unlike what one might expect of the negotiations in Paris.

But back to Sands – or more to the point, to his three helpers (i.e. Barritt, Fisher and Scotford). This little triumvirate, as I had discovered via the background proffered on their jointly authored OUP – “Oxford University Press’s Academic Insights for the Thinking World” – blogposts:

Liz Fisher is General Editor of the Journal of Environmental Law and Professor of Environmental Law in the Faculty of Law, University of Oxford. Dr Eloise Scotford is Senior Lecturer in the Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London. Emily Barritt is a Research Assistant and Project Officer at King’s College London’s School of Law working for Lord Phillips and Lord Judge.

This triumvirate appears to be big on EarthDay. YMMV, but this suggests a somewhat advocacy-tainted (as opposed to scientifically informed) view.

[UPDATE – 10/9/2015 10:11 PM PDT: For further details of Fisher’s and/or the Journal of Environmental Law’s pointers, proclivities and preferences, readers might be interested in a listing of blog entries – proffered as background for participants in the September seminar – which can be found here]

FWIW, of those who also spoke in the Sands video, perhaps the most informed (IMHO) – was Lavanya Rajamani. According to her CV, Rajamani’s background (see LRajamani – Curriculum Vitae – September 2014 (pdf)) includes (but is certainly not limited to):


Responsible for supporting, as part of a team, the President of the Conference of Parties to the FCCC, and the Meeting of Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, as well as Chairs of UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] negotiating bodies, by drafting negotiating text, as well as preparing briefing documents, resolutions, and speaking notes for Presiding officers

While Rajamani certainly seems to lean towards the sentiments of the advocacy-inclined, in my view, she was the only one of the Sands’ video speakers who brought some down-to-earth knowledge to the discussion (such as it was). And I found it somewhat amusing that – in the video – the advocacy-driven Chair appeared to do his level – but polite – best to keep her quiet after her allocated ten minutes had expired:

And because it’s Friday, I’ve shamelessly copied, captured ‘n pasted Matthews’ pictorial summary of these particular proceedings!



3 thoughts on “Of legal beagles and climate change views

  1. Pingback: Robin Guenier on Philippe Sands | The IPCC Report

  2. Hilary

    O/T Remembering brought on by the scene in Oz but maybe Canada as well? Hopefully not

    Kahlil Gibran “Thoughts and Meditations” and “The Silver Plated Turd”

  3. Pingback: The Courts & the Climate | Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

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