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Climate change an emerging issue in law

Papua New Guinea's Managing director of Climate Change Development Authority Ruel Yamuna (middle)

Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea – April 16, 2019: 6am (THE NATIONAL): Papua New Guinea’s Managing director of Climate Change Development Authority Ruel Yamuna said climate change remained the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of Pacific Island people.

More than 30 experts in the field of meditation and arbitration from around the world attended the second International Mediation and Arbitration Conference (IMAAC) last month to help PNG judiciary understand how mediation and arbitration would assist remove hindrances in the rule of law to increase business confidence in PNG as part of a globalised economy.

Yamuna spoke on the theme ‘Call for judiciary to set up environmental court’ saying, “As the demand for technical expertise in climate change matters rises, I encourage dispute resolution experts to identify their own professional development needs.”

He said in order for PNG and the rest of the Pacific to meet their Paris Agreement commitments and protect their communities from sea-level rise and other climate impacts, they needed to offer investors a stable legal and financial environment and independent dispute resolution.

The Paris Agreement is within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in dealing with greenhouse gas emissions that mitigate, adapt, and finance.

The Paris Agreement has 195 signatory countries and has been effective since 2016.

“Under that framework, PNG has committed to reducing fossil fuel emissions in the electricity generation sector by transitioning to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.

“In addition, PNG has committed to improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions where possible in the transport and forestry sectors.”

He said last December, he and his colleagues from Climate Change and Development Authority attended an international climate change conference in Katowice, Poland.

“At that conference, Pacific countries continued to play a strong, unified advocacy role for greater efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.”

He said these efforts were urgently required by all countries if we are to guarantee the existence of the Pacific community and our planet as we know it.

“We must address gaps in technical and financial expertise, lack of resources and data.”

Meanwhile Justice Jeffery Shepherd said there was no doubt the judiciary would consider an environmental court.

“I can’t say immediately, but I believe that is an issue, which the Chief Justice would be pleased to address.”

Justice Shepherd said the establishment of a separate land and environmental court would also depend on financing, and the State’s willingness because such a court would need specialists and environmental lawyers.

“The role and challenge to the judiciary can surely be to adapt and develop laws that address these very serious issues.”

He said it would be interesting to see in the years ahead if the PNG judiciary would develop a concept of environmental refugee protection.

“Think of the number of volcanic islands of the coast of PNG where resettlement has to occur either on temporary or permanent basis.

“Is there a right under the constitution for persons whose land, through no fault of their own, is disappearing?

“Is there a right for the State to assist with resettlement?”

He said the term ‘environmental refugee’ itself has so far not obtained judicial recognition in the major developed states such as America, Europe, and Asia.

“The reason is that judges are concerned that this will open the flood gates, to environmental claims litigation,” he said.


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