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Thompson v The Minister for Climate Change Issues

2 November 2017

High Court of New Zealand, Wellington Registry 

Citation: [2017] NZHC 733

Date: 2 November 2017

Judge: Mallon J

In this matter, the applicant brought an application to review the New Zealand government’s response to climate change. In particular, two decisions were challenged: the setting of the 2050 GHG emissions target in terms of domestic legislation and the setting of the 2030 GHG emissions target in terms of the Paris Agreement (NDC).

In relation to the 2050 target, it held that the New Zealand government is obliged in terms of domestic legislation, read together with the Paris Agreement, revise its 2050 target in accordance with new information made available by the IPCC. There was not enough information before the court for it to make an assessment on whether or not the current target is in line with the most recent climate science.

In relation to the to 2030 target, the big question was whether or not it was justiciable at all, given that it was not made in terms of legislation, but in terms of an international agreement. The Court held that review should not absolutely be excluded, but that Courts would need to observe the principle of deference when considering a review application in relation to the NDC.

The Court held in favour of the Minister that the NDC was not unreasonable or irrational.

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Section 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being; and to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that prevent pollution and ecological degradation; promote conservation; and secure ecologically sustainable development and use of natural resources while promoting justifiable economic and social development.

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