Climate Change and Judges

Event: Asia-Pacific Judicial Conference on Climate Change Adjudication: Trends and Impacts

Climate Change and Judges

08 October 2019
Author / Speaker: 
Antonio Herman Benjamin, National High Court, Brazil - Email the author | Other materials by the author

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Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin spoke to the participants about (i) the general premises concerning judges vis-a-vis the climate change crisis and (ii) the means by which judges can incorporate climate change in their work.

On the first point, Justice Benjamin emphasized that very few countries have climate change litigation. But this fact should not deter judges from discussing about climate change or preparing themselves to deal with the legal implications of climate change and thereby render climate justice. Many countries also do not have any environmental law case before their supreme courts. But this should not preclude them from organizing training programs in those countries because there will surely come a time when environmental cases will reach the supreme courts. This limited number of cases should in fact prompt judges to prepare for these cases when they arrive.

Moreover, climate change permeates the legal system entirely, such as family law, insurance, contracts, liability, torts, constitutional law. Every single area of law will be touched by climate change and its impact. This means that judges should meet often to discuss and prepare themselves for dealing with climate change.

Further, judges are ill equipped with climate change. Although climate change is a global phenomenon, climate adaptation is local.

On the second point, judges will address climate change issues in four types of cases: (i) ordinary, non-environmental law cases, even if climate change is not directly involved; (ii) environmental law cases, such as those involving forest fires, deforestation, and protection of fresh water, coastal zones, wetlands, and mangroves; (iii) cases involving mainly procedural issues such as standing and res judicata; and (iv) soon, pure blood climate change cases.

Judges absolutely need to prepare and they certainly have help. ADB, UN Environment, World Commission on Environmental Law, and GJIE are all available at the international level. Scientists, legal experts, and academics are likewise willing to provide assistance.

Geographical Focus: 
Regional - Asia
Subregional- Pacific
Type of Content: 
Learning Event


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