Lawyers for Friends of the Earth Canada gave the Government of Canada notice yesterday that they will be appealing a recent Federal Court decision in Canada’s first ever climate change lawsuit. The much anticipated appeal comes one week before the world gathers in Poznan, Poland for the next round of international climate change negotiations.
The original lawsuit was launched in June by pro bono lawyers from Paliare Roland Barristers and Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund) on behalf of Friends of the Earth Canada. They were seeking a declaration from the court that the government had failed to meet the legal requirements of the federal Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act (KPIA). These requirements include a Plan based on meeting Kyoto targets and drafting and enacting legally binding regulations to combat climate change.
“If the Federal Court’s decision was left unchallenged, Canada’s woeful inaction on the climate change crisis would be allowed to continue despite domestic law that clearly states the Government must act,” stated Ecojustice lawyer Hugh Wilkins. “We simply cannot stand by while the government picks and chooses which laws to enforce. All of our laws must be upheld – even the ones the government finds inconvenient.”
The Federal Court ruled that the legislation itself is not justiciable – meaning it is not an issue the Courts can resolve. The appeal will seek to have the Federal Court decision set aside and ask the Court of Appeal to declare that the Minister of the Environment and the Governor in Council are violating the KPIA.
“We are looking to the Federal Court of Appeal to provide more guidance on the issue of justiciability,” said eminent Canadian lawyer Chris Paliare. “The KPIA itself states that it is binding on the Government. If the government is not accountable in the courts for its admitted non-compliance with this legislation, it could make the same claim for various other laws that it does not want to obey. That makes this an important case, not just for the Kyoto Protocol, but also for democracy and the rule of law.”
“Friends of the Earth cannot let the Government of Canada defy its domestic law on climate change,” said Beatrice Olivastri, CEO of Friends of the Earth Canada. “If we cannot enforce the KPIA, it makes a mockery of the democratic process in the current session of Parliament and any private member’s bill that is considered. How can we debate future commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when we fail to enforce the current law of the land on climate change?”