Former UNFCCC senior legal adviser joins LRI Board

Mr Seth Osafo, a Ghanaian lawyer, has been appointed as a new Trustee of the LRI Board. Mr Osafo brings to the Board a deep knowledge of climate change law and policy and a wealth of experience of the international process, having worked at a number of UN agencies since the early 1990s including as senior legal adviser to the UNFCCC secretariat as well as UNEP. Mr Osafo was also the Head of the Legal Division of the Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary General for the Future Status of Kosovo, HE. Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland. Since 2009 he has been a consultant to the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), UNITAR and the African Development Bank providing legal advice to African negotiators at the UN climate Negotiations.

On his appointment Seth stated that “ I look forward to joining an organization whose work on the legal issues arising from the climate change negotiations has greatly benefitted African negotiators”.

Kate Cook, LRI Chair, commented that Seth will “bring invaluable insight into the perspectives of developing country negotiators at the climate change negotiations, and in particular those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, as we develop our capacity to provide assistance with national implementation of the Paris Agreement.”

 

Human rights across borders

On 22 March 2017, a public hearing will take place at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which was asked (by Colombia) to give an advisory opinion on the interpretation and scope of certain human rights obligations (e.g. the right to life and humane treatment) in the American Convention on Human Rights.

The request for an advisory opinion focuses on the possible impacts of grand scale projects on the marine environment in the Greater Caribbean Region. It raises many legal questions related to the effects of transboundary pollution originating in one jurisdiction on the rights of people under the jurisdiction or control of another country.

The so called “extra-territorial” application of human rights obligations is also an important issue in the climate change context. For example: could a major greenhouse gas emitting nation be held responsible under existing human rights treaties for harm to the lives and livelihoods of people in another country?

LRI’s director Christoph Schwarte was invited to submit his written observations on the request for an advisory opinion. His short note – along with the comments by 45 other experts, organisations and academic institutions – is available at: http://www.corteidh.or.cr/cf/jurisprudencia2/observaciones_oc.cfm?nId_oc=1650&revision=1

US withdrawal?

Following the inauguration of President Donald Trump the Whitehouse website was changed immediately to confirm the new government’s intention to scale back or undo previous efforts to address climate change. It now states that “for too long [the US has] been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry. President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule.”

Whether the new policy will also result in a departure from commitments made at the international level is not yet clear. There has, however, been persistent speculation about a possible withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement (after at least three years from 4 November 2016 to take effect after another year) or even the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a whole (within one year).

Legal advice produced by LRI experts indicates that “although the Constitution requires the advice and consent of the Senate before the United States can become a party to a treaty, the president may unilaterally decide on behalf of the country to terminate a treaty that no longer serves the national interest”.

On the justiciability of the Nationally Determined Contribution submitted by the US another legal opinion states that: “Since the Paris Agreement was not adopted by the US as a self-executing agreement and since the US has only complied with the Paris Agreement using existing legislation, the provisions of the agreement, including the NDC obligations, will likely not be enforceable in a US court.”

The full advice is available through the LRI database. If you have not registered yet you can do so (in 20 seconds) and instantly use it at http://legalresponseinitiative.org/wp-login.php?action=register