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Swedish politician sues world leaders

BRUSSELS – Swedish member of the European Parliament sues world leaders for crime against humanity after Copenhagen fiasco.

China to exploit ice-free Arctic

”250,000 people will die each year and 36 million will have to move because of global warming. That's serious and the leaders need to know they have a personal responsibility to act”, Green party member Carl Schlyter told The Swedish Wire.

Carl Schlyter likes to stand out from the crowd in the European Parliament. In fact, he believes it's necessary to be a bit different to get people to notice the EU-issues. The first time I met him was at a Christmas party at the Swedish workers union office in Brussels, where former Commissioner Margot Wallström and her party colleague Göran Färm presented their latest book, “The peoples' Europe”. Carl Schlyter arrived to the party on crutches and cut off jeans shorts. It was in the end of November and freezing.

”I had a ligament injury in the knee and I'd just done an operation, I had to wear short trousers”, he explains a year and a half later when we meet again in his Brussels flat, a stone throw away from the Parliament. This time he wears long trousers, a hackneyed t-shirt and his hear is a mess.

Maybe it's because he's got a lot on his mind; the family is growing, he needs to find a bigger place to live, the flat is full of boxes as he's packing their stuff to move out and he's about to sue the industrialised world's leaders on crime against humanity for not doing enough in tackling climate change.

”The legal basis is there. The International Court of Justice in the Hague deals with genocide and compulsory transfer among other things. And according to the World Health Organization 250,000 people will die each year due to the global warming and you will have millions of climate refugees. Not acting is a crime against humanity”, he says.

The law suit is written and his legal expert has approved it. He just needs a second opinion from a lawyers network in Brussels, specialised in climate issues. Then he will hand over the case to the International Court of Justice, ICJ, in the Hague.

Carl Schlyter means that the politicians cannot hide by claiming that they didn't realise what was going to happen since the UN-climate panel clearly has stated that a lot of people will die and will have to move due to global warming. Nor can they claim that they lacked of resources in order to tackle the problem he argues.

”The resources were there. Just look at the rescue packages for the financial sector. Those added up to ten times as much as what was needed to handle the climate problem”. 

As a member of the European Parliament he argued, ahead of the UN-climate summit in Copenhagen last December, that the EU needed to cut it's emissions by 40 percent by 2020, instead of those 20 percent that the Council proposed. He is certain that the EU will not reach the target of limiting global warming to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius with the Council's proposition.

“You can't see actions against climate change as a national shopping list where some countries choose to do something and others nothing. You need an international binding agreement and sanctions for those who don't act”.    

Carl Schlyter hopes that the prosecutor of the ICJ will start a preliminary investigation. However, he doesn't really believe in a prosecution against US-president Barack Obama, Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and the other leaders of the industrialised world. He just hopes that his report puts some pressure on the leaders before the next climate summit in Mexico in the end of this year.

“Maybe they realise the seriousness in not acting if you actually compare it to genocide”, he says.

However, when I ask him if he really thinks that the world leaders can agree on a 40 percent emissions reduction in Mexico he hesitates. Then he points at his son who sits on his lap, playing with his mobile phone.

”This is another reason why I do this. When future generations ask why didn't you do anything, didn't you realise what was going to happen? In this case we do know what will happen and I want to be able to say that I tried to stop it”, he says.

Facts: Carl Schlyter
Born: 1968 in Stockholm
Education: degree in Chemical Engineering and Technology, KTH Royal Institute of Technology
- 1994: museum keeper at the National Museum and the Modern Museum in Stockholm
- 1994-1995: political secretary for the Swedish Green Party
- 1996: assistant for green MEP Ulf Holm
- 1997-2004: advisor for the Green Group in the European Parliament 
- 2004 - : member of the European Parliament

Carl Schlyter has hired an assistant who's only job description is that he's forbidden to conduct in short-term-thinking in order to avoid getting stuck in the day-to-day agenda in the EP.  

Andreas Liljeheden is a freelance journalist based in Brussels.

Last Updated (Thursday, 04 March 2010 09:57)


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