Lawyers In the UK Defy Bar and Refuse to Act for Fossil Fuel Companies

I promised you good news after Monday!

Lawyers In the UK Defy Bar and Refuse to Act for Fossil Fuel Companies
Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash

This story pulled a smile out of me. It’s the start of a new push in the fight for climate justice- and in this case, that term is quite literal!

Over in the United Kingdom, a group of over 120 lawyers have signed on to a new pledge. They will not prosecute climate activists exercising their right to peaceful protest, and they will not defend fossil fuel industry projects in court.

Now, there’s a little bit of a battle going on over this. In the UK, there is something called the ‘cab rank’ rule, which piggybacks on the ideal that everyone is entitled to legal representation and a fair trial. Under the ‘cab rank’ rule, if a barrister is able to take a case and is qualified for it, they have to accept it regardless of their ethical stance.

This is a good rule on the whole, otherwise lawyers could refuse to represent people charged with murder or abuse. Like it or not, every human being has the right to a legal defense.

But corporations are not people. And the result of fossil fuel industry projects is catastrophic for all life on Earth.

In my opinion, there is a vast difference between these scenarios. In one, barristers are either defending or prosecuting an individual based on accusations of a crime they have already committed.

In the other, the barrister is being asked to argue that a fossil fuel corporation should be allowed to partake in mass destruction and death for the sake of profit.

The Declaration of Conscience

This pledge cites the 2019 declaration of a climate emergency put forth by the UK Parliament. It reminds readers that urgent action to prevent mass death, migration, loss of ecosystems and societal collapse is not an option, it is a necessity.

Declaration of Conscience

“We also note that in 2021 the International Energy Agency concluded that there could be no new oil or gas fields or coal mines if the world was to reach net zero by 2050, and the UN Secretary General’s statement in April 2022 that “investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness”.

For decades upon decades, scientists have been warning governments around the world that we are causing mass damage to the Earth’s ecosystems.

It turns out that our industries and the pollution they pump out into the atmosphere are actually killing us. Who knew? Literally everybody who is paying attention.

We’ve got wildfires out of control, we’ve got ocean dead zones, we’ve got storms and entire regions of the world shifting their climate and seasonal patterns.

In my home region, winter and spring have slid several months over, and the mild summers of my childhood have been replaced with consecutive, humid heatwaves reaching the average temperature of Nevada.

Meanwhile, sections of the United States have become arid, and can no longer support the breadbasket they once sheltered without literally pumping in water from other States.

Seeing these young lawyers and legal academics taking a stand gives me hope. It tells me that people have finally had enough, that they’re paying attention, and they’re finally taking a stand.

Make no mistake, while the battle is ongoing, this simple act of defiance is, in and of itself, a victory.

So, take a moment today and celebrate it. Give a full-throated cheer. Let’s use this to give ourselves the energy and momentum we need to keep on pushing this fight to the limit!