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UPDATE: What is a Climate Justice Tribunal?

Over the next week I hope to learn more about the idea of a Climate Justice Tribunal.

One of the main aims of the upcoming Peoples World Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba is to analyze and develop an action plan to advance the establishment of such a tribunal.

As noted in the March 2010 issue of the New Internationalist, “An international climate justice tribunal has already been set up, thanks to a decision of the Fourth Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of Abya Yala, Bolivia. The court had its first preliminary hearing on 13-14 October 2009 in Cochabamba.”

At this point, the NI article adds, “It’s not a tribunal in a legal sense, having no formal legal authority, but seeks rather to create an ethical, moral force that will pressure governments to assume their responsibilities within the framework of equality and climate justice.”

A preliminary hearing of this tribunal has already included a claim by “the rural community of Khapi outside La Paz, who depend on glacial melt from Mount Illimani for irrigation. The glaciers are disappearing fast due to global warming and the villagers are accusing the high CO2-producing industrial nations of violating their human rights.”

One of the questions being proposed for the People’s World Referendum on Climate Change is, “Do you agree with a Climate Justice Tribunal to judge those who destroy Mother Earth?”.

This is a question that could be asked of millions of people around the world sometime between now and the COP 16 climate summit in Cancun, Mexico starting on November 29.

As I sit in the Buenos Aires airport waiting to depart to Santa Cruz de la Sierra and then on to Cochabamba, it’s very much a proposal that I would like to learn more about.

I also can’t help but wonder how Canada, with its unconstrained tar sands emissions and a government that acts as an impediment to much-needed international action, would be judged by such a tribunal.