USA 6th centuary law evoked to force US government to curb CO2 emissions

12/5/2011 New Scientist Byzantine perspective on climate justice.LEGISLATION introduced by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I in the 6th century is the latest weapon in the battle to force the US government to curb climate change by cutting carbon dioxide emissions.

Guided by NASA climate scientist Jim Hansen, a charity representing young Americans last week invoked the ancient “Public Trust Doctrine” in a lawsuit against the US government and several of its agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the Department of Commerce.

“The public trust law says that common resources like water and air are held in trust by the government for future generations,” says Julia Olson, director of the Our Children’s Trust charity, which brought the action in San Francisco on 4 May.

Olson says that the doctrine - later enshrined in the English Magna Carta in 1215 and exported to the US in 1776 - has been invoked for centuries to pressure governments to protect public resources. It is now being invoked to force the US government to act on global warming. “A court order requiring annual CO2 emission reductions, where the court retains jurisdiction to enforce the order, would be a huge leap forward in the US,” Olson told New Scientist.

Introduction of the lawsuit was supported around the US by youth “iMatter” marches, which back action on global warming.
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