Twitter Moot: Common law right to a healthy atmosphere?

by Dianne Saxe on November 8, 2012

Saxe Law Office is proudly sponsoring the environmental law Twitter Moot for the second year. The question being debated by Canadian law students (in 140 characters or less) is:

Do Canadians have a legally recognized right to a healthy global atmosphere?

If so, large scale emissions of greenhouse gases would be illegal, because they damage the health of the global atmosphere.  Legal recognition of such a right would raise a wide range of legal and political questions including the possibility of:

  • lawsuits being filed against large-scale emitters of greenhouse gases;
  • questions about the government’s legal and political responsibility to protect the public’s right to a healthy atmosphere; and
  • the courts interpreting environmental and other legislation in ways that protect the right to a healthy atmosphere.

Ok, it’s a longshot, but exciting to think about.

Who’s Who?

The parties in the Atmospheric Right Reference, and the order of appearance, will be:

  • The Government of British Columbia – The Government of British Columbia, a party to the reference, will argue that there is a public right to a healthy atmosphere, but that its implications are largely political, rather than legal. The Government of British Columbia will be represented by @TheRyborg and @canadajon from York University (Osgoode Hall Law School).
  • The Government of Canada – The Canadian government, a party to the reference, will be taking the position that there is no legally recognized public right to a healthy global atmosphere. The Government of Canada will be represented by @jaymichi and @cjalbinati from Thompson Rivers University Law School.
  • The Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER) – CIER – a national, First Nation-directed environmental non-profit organization – is intervening in the reference. CIER will provide the Team representing it with direction as to specific issues it wishes raised in relation to the Reference. West Coast Environmental Law thanks CIER for providing that direction and for its involvement in the Twitter Moot. CIER will be represented by @tankersnothanks and @orangepipsies of the University of Alberta Law School.
  • The Canadian Institute of Petroleum Companies (CIPC) – CIPC, an intervenor in the reference, will argue that there is no common law right to a health atmosphere. CIPCwill be represented by @Baaarbora and @Willhorne of Dalhousie University (Schulich Law School).
  • The Environmental Coalition – The Environmental Coalition, a Coalition of a number of prominent environmental groups, is intervening in the reference to argue that there is a common law right to a healthy atmosphere, and that recognition of such a right is an important piece of the legal response to climate change. The Coalition will be represented by @adamharris09 and @Gradsen of the University of Ottawa Law School.

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