We shoot at big targets

dimitri de boer photo1

What are your goals?
We want to use the law to protect people and the planet.

Why focus on the law?
The law sets the moral foundation in society for what is acceptable. We prohibit theft, for example, because it crosses the moral line. It is similar to the environment.

If there is a big problem in society, and you pass a law, enforce it for a few years, obeying the law becomes just common sense. Problem solved.

China is a good example. Around the time of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the government began a law requiring disclosure of environmental information, such as air pollution levels, which was very severe at the time. Soon, the Air Quality Index became available on people’s smartphones. Suddenly, everyone knew exactly how good (or bad) the air would be on any given day. This has led to significant improvements in air quality, and in people’s awareness of the environment.

So how can you use the law to improve the environment?
In Europe, we prosecute governments. We shoot at big targets: the oil majors, national governments, the European Union. We just took the European Central Bank to court on the quantitative easing package. Money is flowing into business as usual – not strategic sectors for our sustainable future.

In China, we act as an advisor to the government, supporting the Ministry of Environment and Environment, legislators, the Supreme People’s Court, and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate – the equivalent of a public prosecutor.

At COP26 in Glasgow, last year, the United States and China agreed to work together to reduce carbon emissions. Does this give you hope that even competitors can work toward a common goal?
yes! Unfortunately, since then, climate cooperation between the United States and China has been suspended. And there is uncertainty about the next US presidential administration, so it is difficult for China to view the US as a reliable partner when it comes to climate action.

Having said that, together, China and the United States emit 40% of the world’s carbon, so we really need to commit to climate transition. Many community actors be Some US states, for example, are committed to decarbonization: by 2030, California aims to reduce greenhouse gases from buildings to 40% less than it was in 1990.

For its part, China announced last September that it would not build more coal-fired power plants abroad. Recently, in 2019, China was spending 6-8 billion US dollars annually to build new coal-fired plants. The decision to stop was very important. I hope that China and OECD countries can help developing countries jump into a low-carbon future.

What do you think about the ability of technology to reduce carbon emissions?
Some technological activities are energy intensive, such as Bitcoin mining. In fact, earlier this year, a Chinese court invalidated a contract between two companies involved in bitcoin mining because mining wastes a lot of energy.

But more broadly, I would say that ICT is more of an opportunity than a threat. Technology sectors provide much higher GDP per unit of energy consumed than traditional industries. ICTs can be used to improve economic efficiency and industrial processes, which will go a long way towards reducing global carbon emissions.

Also, technologies like remote sensing and artificial intelligence can increase your effectiveness as an environmental monitor. They can easily detect changes in land use of forests, coastal areas, and wetlands – and identify the misuse of those natural resources. This is great for enforcing environmental laws and prosecuting those who violate them, because you have data, you have evidence. These are very important tools.

Where do you see room for improvement?
One area is major e-commerce companies. They can really use their influence to push people into more environmentally responsible behavior. For example, think of all the waste from packaging delivered items. These companies can use different tools on their platforms to drive change between consumers, sellers, and delivery companies. At a minimum, there should be a small box that people can check when they place their order that says, please give me sustainable packaging, it may seem a small thing for any given order, but it will show the demand for such green behavior, and over time sustainable packaging will become the norm.