Government should have done more on climate change

A decision was released today in the case that Sarah Thomson took against the previous Government  alleging they had taken inadequate action over climate change.

Stuff:  High Court says previous National Government should have done more on climate change targets

Justice Jillian Mallon released her decision on Thursday after Waikato law student Sarah Thomson took former Environment Minister Paula Bennett to court in June over alleged inadequate action to address emissions targets.

The High Court dismissed the judicial review. But in her written decision, Justice Mallon acknowledged that when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its fifth assessment reports in 2014, the Government failed to undertake a satisfactory review of its 2050 emissions targets.

“However this cause of action has been overtaken by subsequent events,” Justice Mallon said.

Because National lost power at the last election, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s new Labour-led government had already announced its intention to set a new 2050 target, court-ordered relief was ruled unnecessary.

Government lawyers had argued the court was not in a position to make a judgement on the government’s target setting, because they could not comprehend the many economic and social implications. But Justice Mallon did not agree.

One of Thomson’s lawyers said on Thursday this was hugely significant, because it emphasised that all future decisions that were made in this area were susceptible for review by the courts.

“Notwithstanding the complex nature of these decisions, the courts retain a crucial oversight role to ensure that the decisions meet minimum standards of lawfulness and rationality.”

Should the Court be able to stipulate which policies a Government should implement, and to what degree?

On two other actions, which related to the 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) emissions targets, Justice Mallon was not convinced the minister made any error for which the court could intervene.

“The international framework has been followed. It has not been demonstrated the NDC decision was outside the minister’s power under this framework,” she said.

“That is not to say another minister would have assessed the appropriate 2030 target in the same way and reached the same decision. Nor does it prevent New Zealand from doing more between now and 2030 than contemplated in its NDC decision.

“The international process envisages review and demonstrated progression by developed countries including New Zealand. Quite apart from the international process, New Zealand remains free to review its 2030 target (or any other target) as it considers appropriate.

“The community has elected a new Government and it is for that new Government to weigh the competing factors and to reach a view about the appropriate targets going forward. For these reasons the application for judicial review is dismissed.”

So the Judge has left it up to the incoming Government.

Sarah Thomson said the ball was now in newly-minted Minister for Climate Change James Shaw’s court to ensure targets were changed quickly.

“This is something we can’t waste time on.”

I have serious reservations about using courts for what is effectively political activism.

Will this be a one off? Or will it encourage others to try to force the Government’s hand?

54 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  November 2, 2017

    The only role for the courts is to ensure proper process. They must not be allowed to make political decisions or judgements.

    • Mefrostate

       /  November 2, 2017

      Good thing they didn’t, then.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  November 2, 2017

        This suggests the judge felt empowered to do so:

        Government lawyers had argued the court was not in a position to make a judgement on the government’s target setting, because they could not comprehend the many economic and social implications. But Justice Mallon did not agree.

        If that is accurate reporting the courts need to be brought to heel.

        • Mefrostate

           /  November 2, 2017

          In a decision today Justice Mallon ruled the Minister responsible was required to consider what, if any, changes had occurred between United Nations’ climate change reports in setting the emissions targets and did not do so.

          It’s a ruling on whether government is following due process, not on whether their decisions from that process were right.

          An interesting decision, to be sure, but I’d be surprised if you had better understanding of the legal arguments than the judge. Would be entertaining to hear yours anyway, though.

          • patupaiarehe

             /  November 2, 2017

            It’s a ruling on whether government is following due process, not on whether their decisions from that process were right.

            Nope, it is just a law student attempting to ‘make a name for herself’…

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 2, 2017

              Regardless of your feelings about the case or the law student herself, it factually is a ruling on whether government followed due process. It’s literally in the judge’s decision.

            • patupaiarehe

               /  November 2, 2017

              A decision based on ‘climate fraud’. As far as I’m concerned, both the judge & the litigant, can ‘fuck right off’…

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 2, 2017

              Luckily our government processes and our legal proceedings aren’t at all based on which blog sites you’ve read.

            • Gezza

               /  November 2, 2017

              Mefro’s quite right. The judge had the legal authority and duty to determine whether correct process was followed. It’s what they do in many appeals. They cannot substitute their own judgement for that of the statutorily authorised decision-maker, but they can determine that it needs to be reconsidered if some aspect of process was not followed or was incorrectly followed.

            • patupaiarehe

               /  November 2, 2017

              Unfortunately, they seem to be based on the ones that you read, Mefro… 😛

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 2, 2017

              @Gezza, I think if you read the judgement (link I posted way below) the judge was not as clear about that as I would like although she wound up not violating the boundaries. She cited a Dutch decision in which the court decided a target and left the Government to decide how to meet it. In my view that is much too far into science, economics and politics.

            • Mefrostate

               /  November 3, 2017

              @Alan it is clear that, had the government not changed, she would have made an order directing a review of the target. Do you agree with her determination that:

              the publishing of a new IPCC report requires the Minister to consider
              whether a target set under s 224 should be reviewed.

              And do you agree that such an action would have been an appropriate exercise of the judiciary’s powers, in so far as it was based only in interpretation of law, and required no political judgement?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 3, 2017

              Yes, it wasn’t that part of the judgement I was concerned about, but the discussion that followed.

    • Damn straight Al….. this is a joke of a case and the courts have no role to take in policy decision making…

  2. chrism56

     /  November 2, 2017

    I suspect now the precedent has been set, right wing groups can use it to undermine a left wing government. That will be poetic justice

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  November 2, 2017

      I’m looking forward to suing the kids for wasting taxpayers’ money.

      • Mefrostate

         /  November 2, 2017

        Don’t do it Alan, I’d hate to see your money actually go to waste

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  November 2, 2017

          Don’t worry, Mefro, I’ll choose my time well.

  3. artcroft

     /  November 2, 2017

    The courts should be very careful they don’t cross a line here. Partisan judicial appointments are something we don’t need.

  4. artcroft

     /  November 2, 2017

    It would be interesting to know what the court would have ordered should National have remained in power.

    • Blazer

       /  November 2, 2017

      no it wouldn’t.No one is interested in theoretical scenarios.

  5. Seabird

     /  November 2, 2017

    How can a Govt do more on climate change targets when, by consensus of hundreds of scientists released lately, there hasn’t been any climate warming for something like 17 years. Perhaps the last govt should have been making targets o what we need to do when we are freezing to death in a few years.

  6. robertguyton

     /  November 2, 2017

    National failed us all.

  7. robertguyton

     /  November 2, 2017

    Wasn’t Key awful !

    • sorethumb

       /  November 3, 2017

      Population increase (mostly through immigration) increases emissions plus the cost of mitigation.

  8. Alan Wilkinson

     /  November 2, 2017

    I’ve skim read the judgement now: http://www.courtsofnz.govt.nz/cases/thomson-v-the-minister-for-climate-change-issues/@@images/fileDecision?r=642.38115004

    There’s an almighty lot of scientific codswallop in it, much of it conceded by the Government side so passed unchallenged. The judge did consider the limits of judicial intervention extensively and as far as I could see didn’t come to any very compelling conclusions while eventually deciding she didn’t need to.

    Hansen was an active player along with a couple of local alarmist stooges he wheeled in. The Government didn’t try to counter them at all so it was one-sided crap in the science department.

    • Gezza

       /  November 2, 2017

      Meantime the young lady is probably happy she’s made a name for herself.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  November 2, 2017

        She’ll probably get a job in one of Hansen’s propaganda machines.

    • Mefrostate

       /  November 2, 2017

      I’m surprised you got past the acceptance by all parties that “the accumulation in the
      atmosphere of greenhouse gases released as a result of human activity
      increases the natural greenhouse gas effect which causes the warming
      of the planet
      ” without deciding your intellect was too great to bother with such a document.

      • patupaiarehe

         /  November 2, 2017

        Oh puhleez Mefro! Stop ‘buying into’ the climate change fraud…
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Ice_Age

        • Mefrostate

           /  November 3, 2017

          Great link thanks patupaiarehe: “The rate of Arctic cooling is roughly 0.02 °C per century. This trend could be extrapolated to continue into the future, possibly leading to a full ice age, but the twentieth-century instrumental temperature record shows a sudden reversal of this trend, with a rise in global temperatures attributed to greenhouse gas emissions”

          Interesting stuff!

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  November 3, 2017

        Then I guess a lot of things surprise you, Mefro, since that is not a statement I have ever had any concern with. The issue has always been how much, what other feedbacks are there and does it matter.

        • Blazer

           /  November 3, 2017

          this surprises me…coming from a…scientist…’There’s an almighty lot of scientific codswallop in it’!

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  November 3, 2017

            Almost nothing you say surprises me, B, except about a couple of times a month when you say something sensible.

            • Blazer

               /  November 3, 2017

              yet before you attest a scientist relies on fact.That has now changed to..codswallop!

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  November 3, 2017

              Wasn’t me who changed it, B. It was “climate science”.

        • Mefrostate

           /  November 3, 2017

          You’ve previously denied anthropogenic climate change, and ridiculed the idea that humans have an effect on the environment. Here’s an example: https://yournz.org/2017/07/06/media-watch-thursday-62/#comment-199823

          But congrats on finally joining us.

          Now, as for the scientific debate about the extent of ice sheet loss & the possible harm from feedback mechanisms. Let me guess, you just so happen to land on the most harmless side of all of them?

          And you’re confident enough in those conclusions that you’ll continue to call any other conclusion “codswallop”, and you’re not at all interested in the precautionary principle?

          Finally, leading into your politics, since you now agree that human activity is changing the climate, do you think we should be doing anything to mitigate our carbon emissions?

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  November 4, 2017

            Your link to my previous comment does not show what you claim which is not surprising since I have never said or believed that human activities don’t affect the climate in many potential ways. Neither have you any cause to misunderstand that I view that the current best estimate is that our impacts are moderate and slow acting which gives us plenty of time to respond as better evidence and technological options come available.

            As for your last question, I have said repeatedly we should be doing things that make economic sense in conservation and efficiency. Is that too hard to grasp yet?

  9. Patzcuaro

     /  November 3, 2017

    The biggest threat to the environment is the increasing population putting more pressure on resources at the expense of other species. The children should be using their parents for having too many children.

  1. Government should have done more on climate change — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition