Time & Climate Change

May 2017

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Professor Duncan French, Head of School and Co-Director of the Lincoln Centre of Environmental Law and Justice, recently gave the keynote paper at the Tarragona International Environmental Law Colloquium workshop on “Longing for Justice in a Climate-Changed World”.

Professor French gave a paper on the relevance of the temporal dimension in climate change law. He argued that despite being critical on many aspects of international environmental law, lawyers often simply accepted the “actuality” of time, without subjecting it analysis and insight. He pointed to the use of time and time periods in the 1992 Climate Change Convention, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris Agreement.

He concluded that “we fail to recognise the elasticity and political nature of time. How we decide to describe climate change, how we assess it and measure its likely effects and by what duration we decide to tackle it – or adapt to its consequences – all contain temporal aspects, none of which are preordained. They are innately political questions…and we shouldn’t simply accept what legal texts say simply because they refer to matters that seem to be objective and beyond the law”.

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