This important book explores the aims, successes and history of ClientEarth, the groundbreaking campaigning legal charity that has spearheaded an entirely new way of defending our planet and treats the planet as its own client.
A full press release is below.
Back in 1996 a young editor at HarperCollins UK commissioned a book on proposal that had been turned down by every other publisher in London. He was nonetheless convinced that it might change how the world saw itself.
That book, published in January 2000, was Naomi Klein’s NO LOGO. Nearly two decades later the same editor – Philip Gwyn Jones, now running new imprint Scribe UK – has just commissioned a proposal for a book that he believes could be as significant a publication as NO LOGO: the book is CLIENT EARTH, by the environmental lawyer James Thornton and award winning writer Martin Goodman.
So why the excitement? The answer is that James Thornton might just have found the way to harness all the anxiety and despair and rage of those of us convinced that the world is entering an age of climate crisis. His belief is that the way to try to avert that crisis is to prosecute polluters – governments and corporations alike – through the courts using the laws we already have to hand, and to hit them hard where it hurts them most: on their balance sheets and in their stock prices. And he has already proved this is no utopian dream. He and his team have won dozens of major cases, and demonstrably improved environmental standards worldwide. To do so has required extraordinary legal skill, tenacity, charisma and belief in the rule of law. And Thornton has it all. He is a one-off, a dynamic American lawyer who twelve years ago moved to London and founded ClientEarth – http://www.clientearth.org/ – the campaigning legal charity that has spearheaded an entirely new way of defending our planet.
James sees the Earth as his client. He now has sixty lawyers working with him full-time, finding, taking on and winning cases across a spectrum from blocking Scandinavian attempts to recommence whaling, to winning against the UK government for breach of the Air Quality laws, to reform of the European Fisheries Policy (using a high-profile campaign fronted by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall), to stopping new coal-fired stations being built in Poland, and shutting down illegal forestry in central Africa.
Most recently, James and his team have been driving the British Government livid by suing for breach of EU clean air provisions, with London pollution now the worst in Europe.
Thornton’s story started in Reagan-era America when, as a 27-year-old lawyer, he realized that the individual has the right to bring actions to enforce or to penalise breaches of Federal environmental law. That’s when James partnered with a US billionaire, Mike McIntosh, to bring an astonishing series of David-and-Goliath actions in which he sued 60 companies then polluting Chesapeake Bay and other important waterways (companies to whom the Reagan administration had tacitly signalled a hands-off policy), in a burst of six months: cases which James then won, one case after the other. And from there on James has spearheaded an entirely new way of fighting for the planet.
For non-Americans, that story becomes even more interesting at the moment that James decided to export his revolutionary approach to the rest of the world, moved to London, and in 2008 founded ClientEarth here.
Europeans don’t generally have the same right as Americans to bring citizens’ environmental actions against governments but James and his team have found ways around that, and they’ve also now been brought in by various EU legislators to help them draft more effective laws. And lately the Chinese government has asked them in too, which means ClientEarth is setting up a Beijing office.
The book itself will be co-written with Martin Goodman, the Director of the Philip Larkin Centre for Poetry and Creative Writing at Hull University and the author, amongst others, of a brilliant biography of JS Haldane, SUFFER AND SURVIVE.
Jones acquired world rights from Patrick Walsh of Conville & Walsh, and will make the proposal available to any publisher who might consider joining him in Thornton’s campaign at the Frankfurt Bookfair next week.
Philip Gwyn Jones intends to publish in January 2017 in the UK and Australia, and says:
‘Lightning rarely strikes twice, but the planetary peril that makes us all feel so impotent demands that odds be defied, rules be challenged and new saviours hailed when someone comes along with a set of tools to rebuild Earth’s chances that includes Pragmatism, Accomplishment, Enforcement, Lawfulness, Eloquence, Determination, Faith and, above all, a hard, firm, true Hope. And that someone is James Thornton. He makes it possible to believe that the Law could save the Earth.’
08 Oct 2015