Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 24

To force government action and hold corporations accountable, environmental
advocates worldwide have turned to litigation, with the greatest number of
these cases - more than 1,000 suits - being filed in the United States. In one
of the most publicized cases, Juliana v. United States, 21 youths are suing the
federal government for failing to "preserve a habitable climate system for
present and future generations," violating their fundamental constitutional
rights to freedom from deprivation of life, liberty, and property.
Whether climate change litigation will fast-track change and result in victories
remains to be seen, but environmental warriors from Australia to Uganda to the
United Kingdom are taking their chances by taking their governments to court.
Plaintiffs point to the overwhelming evidence of climate change - and the
cost of inaction - to advance their cause.
In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
released a report that, according to United Nations Secretary-General António
Guterres, should be heard around the world as an "ear-splitting wake-up call"
about the planet's future.
Guterres said the findings show that "climate change is running faster than we
are - and we are running out of time." The overwhelming majority of scientists
studying climate change agree, and they warn that communities and countries
worldwide must prepare for the impact of climate change, such as an acceleration in sea level rise and the likelihood of increasingly extreme weather.
Public opinion on climate change is also shifting. According to a Pew Research
Center survey conducted last spring, people around the globe agree that
climate change poses a severe risk to their countries. The results showed that
individuals in all 26 of the surveyed countries viewed climate change as a
serious risk. Thirteen of the nations surveyed consider climate change as the top
international threat.

PLEDGES TO TAKE ACTION
The international community is responding to concerns over climate change,
but the overall question is, will the response be enough to make a difference?
The Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015 and signed by nearly 200 countries,
represents a broad international effort to address climate change. In June 2017,
however, President Trump announced that the United States is pulling out of
the accord.
Nevertheless, the Paris Agreement is still widely considered a positive step
toward reducing carbon emissions worldwide and addressing climate change,
according to Sara A. Colangelo, director of the environmental law and policy
program at Georgetown University Law Center.
"The Paris Agreement is the major signature piece of international law on
climate change," says Colangelo. "The framework sets out a global coordinated
effect to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and combat the impact of climate
change. We can look at this agreement and say, this is the entire world coming
together to say we need to reduce greenhouse gases."
While current commitments from the signatories of the accord are seen as
insufficient to make an impact, Colangelo points out that these countries will
be revisiting their pledges by 2020. "The world is counting on them to create
more robust emissions reduction targets for 2030," she says.
Ken Rivlin, a New York-based partner at Allen & Overy LLP and head of the firm's
global environmental law group, says that any action the international community takes toward a cleaner environment is a step in the right direction, but he
adds that the Paris Agreement is far from a panacea.
"The Paris Agreement gives countries the freedom to choose how to proceed
in taking steps to reduce carbon emissions," says Rivlin. "The reason is that
individual countries have distinct challenges, so the best ways for them to

24 WASHINGTON LAWYER

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MAY 2019

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"

A diverse set of sometimes
conflicting requirements and
rules can create challenges
for global corporations that
are seeking to comply across
the world.
KEN RIVLIN
Allen & Overy LLP

reduce carbon emissions will also be different. But from a global trade or corporate perspective, a diverse set of sometimes conflicting requirements and
rules can create challenges for global corporations that are seeking to comply
across the world."
"While some consistency would be helpful," adds Rivlin, "the differences are
driven by practical realities."

IMPLEMENTING THE RULES
Scientists warn that if global warming continues to accelerate, the world
will likely see disastrous effects. The planet is currently 1°C warmer than "preindustrial levels." In the IPCC report, the world's leading climate scientists
warned that there are only a dozen years left to keep global warming to a
maximum of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Even an increase of half a degree
could significantly increase the risks of extreme heat, droughts, floods, and
poverty for hundreds of millions of people, according to the report.
The international community has been struggling for decades with how to
address climate change. Adopted in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was the first major
agreement to set an international framework for addressing greenhouse gas
emissions. However, it has been widely critiqued as a failure, and it had fewer
participants than its successor, the Paris Agreement. Notably, the United States
did not ratify the treaty.
Under the Paris Agreement, each country has pledged to prepare, communicate, and maintain a "nationally determined contribution" toward controlling


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Washington Lawyer - May 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - May 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar Of Events
Cybersecurity Rules & Risks For The International Lawyer
Borders, Refugees & A Global Crisis
Climate Change: Turning To Law In Race Against Time
Member Spotlight
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask The Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
The Pro Bono Effect
Community & Connections
Special Coverage: Youth Law Fair @ 20
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Calendar Of Events
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Cybersecurity Rules & Risks For The International Lawyer
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 14
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 16
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Borders, Refugees & A Global Crisis
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 20
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Climate Change: Turning To Law In Race Against Time
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 24
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 26
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 27
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 29
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 31
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Ask The Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 37
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 41
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 42
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 43
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 45
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Special Coverage: Youth Law Fair @ 20
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - May 2019 - Cover4
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