Leading Jurists, Scholars, and Advocates Say Unrelenting CO2 Emissions Violate International Law and Must Be Reduced to Prevent Catastrophe

A group of prominent jurists, scholars, and advocates on March 1, 2015, adopted the Oslo Principles on Global Climate Change Obligations. The Principles are based on the undeniable fact that “[t]he threats [to the Earth from climate change] are grave and imminent,” and the inescapable conclusion that “[a]voiding severe global catastrophe is a moral and legal imperative.” The Principles “set out the legal obligations of States and enterprises to take the urgent measures necessary to avert climate change and its catastrophic effects.” Essentially, they call for reduced CO2 emissions by States and enterprises.

Principle 1, called the “Precautionary Principle,” states that: “1) GHG emissions be reduced to the extent and at a pace necessary to protect against the threats of climate change that can still be avoided; and 2) the level of reductions of GHG emissions required to achieve this, should be based on any credible and realistic worst-case scenario accepted by a substantial number of eminent climate change experts.”

The Oslo Principles, while not binding, serve as an important reminder that impeding disaster from climate change caused by CO2 emissions is not just an environmental and moral problem, it is a legal problem.

Anyone concerned about what government and the law should do about climate change should review the Principles, which can be found here. The commentary to the Principles can be found here


– Stephen G. Harvey