Removing the Threat of Climate Change
Updated: Nov 22
An Introduction to The Shoalhaven Declaration
By Robert C. Hinkley,* 20 November 2023
Today, governments all over the world are failing to protect the environment from global warming and climate change. For more than three decades, the dangers have been well known. There have been 27 Conferences of the Parties (COP) — the United Nations’ global climate summits, where governments made and disregarded pledges to pass laws reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate activists have lobbied, sued, protested, and been ignored. Economists, bankers, and lawyers have tried market-based solutions and failed. Partly because markets only sparingly support renewable energy development, technology is not coming to the rescue in time to stop a global disaster.
What is to be done? Companies which operate under corporate laws promulgated by governments should not be allowed to cause severe harm to our environment. Governments’ function is to protect the public interest, not sponsor entities which destroy it.
Fossil fuel companies, their customers, and other large emitters, won’t stop on their own. The only solution is to make it impossible for them to continue their destructive behaviour. Not just in one country or another. In every country, worldwide.
The first step
This is possible. The corporations causing the problem are not invulnerable. To make them stop, the people of the world must stand up and declare their desire to be rid of companies which emit significant quantities of greenhouse gases.
Like all companies, these companies are responsible to their shareholders and directors. Under the law, directors everywhere have a duty to “act in the best interests of their company.” To the planet’s detriment, this applies even when doing so results in severe damage to the environment.
This part of the law is of course flawed, but here also is where big emitters are vulnerable. Without damaging the profit motive, the law can be changed to require all directors to do more than just look out for shareholders. It can just as well require them to protect the environment from severe damage in a way that has priority over acting in the company’s best interests.
This change needs to be made. But how? What’s the first step?
In July 1776, the people of the thirteen American colonies faced a similar problem. They’d had enough of the King and British Parliament not protecting their interests. Their solution was to declare their independence.
In Philadelphia, America’s founding fathers signed a Declaration of Independence, principally authored by Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. The Declaration stated at the outset that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. In order to secure those rights, governments are formed. It then set forth how the King and Parliament were abusing the colonists’ rights despite numerous entreaties from them to stop. They declared that this justified them then declaring their independence.
To put a stop to corporate destruction of the environment, the people of the world must take a similar step today.
Changing the corporate law
The Shoalhaven Declaration to Stop Corporate Contributions to Global Warming (https://www.codeforcorporatecitizenship.com/post/the-shoalhaven-declaration-1) follows the format of the Declaration of Independence. It affirms the role of government in securing its people’s unalienable rights. It describes many of the abuses to the environment which governments have allowed to continue despite the people’s numerous requests and petitions to make companies stop.
The Shoalhaven Declaration describes a solution for ending the abuse: changing the corporate law – everywhere – to require company directors to never again allow their companies to cause severe damage to the environment.
Affecting this change will change the relationships among government, corporations, and individual citizens by eliminating the right of big companies to cause severe damage unless government can pass laws to make it stop. After the change, corporations will be obligated to protect the environment from severe harm – from the day the change takes full effect and the day each future corporation is organised.
This is the way it should be. Without governments, corporations would not have all the rights they do. Entities which owe their existence to government, should not have free reign to destroy an element of the public interest unless the political will can be mustered to make them stop. It’s time corporate existence comes with obligations which protect the public interest as well as rights.
The change put forth in the Shoalhaven Declaration will eliminate this flaw in existing law, remove (or, at least, reduce) the threat of global warming, and protect the environment for future generations to come.
· As author of the Shoalhaven Declaration, I'd like to thank Mik Aidt of the Centre for Climate Safety (https://climatesafety.info) and Prof. Jean Du Plessis (Deakin University School of Law) for their input and assistance.