The Shoalhaven Declaration
Seven Mile Beach, City of Shoalhaven, NSW Australia
The Shoalhaven Declaration
to Stop Corporate
Contributions to Global Warming
17 November 2023
Whenever it becomes necessary for people to seek change to the institutions under which they have agreed to live among each other, a decent respect for the past requires that they should declare the causes which make such change necessary.
We hold these truths to be self-evident that:
1.1 All people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,
1.2 Among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
1.3 To secure these rights, governments are instituted among people, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
1.4 In furtherance of these rights and promotion of the common good, governments everywhere have provided in law (i) for corporations to be formed and (ii) how they are to be managed.
1.5 However, some of these corporations now pursue their businesses in ways which flagrantly abuse the common good and severely damage the environment. Specifically, the damage resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases by fossil fuel companies, their customers and other large emitters has reached a point where it is dangerous to life and ecosystems, an existential threat to future generations, and no longer tolerable.
1.6 Whenever institutions created by government become severely destructive of the environment or other elements of the public interest, it is the people’s right to change such institutions, laying their new foundation on such principles and organising their powers in such form, as to which the people shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.
2. Long-established institutions should not be changed for minor or transient causes. All experience shows that people are more disposed to pass laws incrementally restricting institutions’ harmful behaviour, than to change the institutions themselves which are engaging in that behaviour.
3. For decades the danger posed by the burning of fossil fuels and the emission of significant quantities of greenhouse gases has been well known. Yet governments have stood by and allowed companies whose businesses emit significant quantities of such gases to continue. Through it all, the threat of global warming and climate change has become more dire. It is now obvious that pursuing a strategy of incremental change is no longer sensible nor desirable.
4. The suffering of the damage from such emissions and the risk of such suffering increasing has now reached a breaking point, necessitating a change in the law which will cause the emission of significant quantities of greenhouse gases to stop, and to ensure the future security of the Earth and its inhabitants.
To prove this, the following facts must be submitted and considered:
According to various United Nations’ sources, the emission of greenhouse gases causes
severe damage to our planet, including:
5.1 The Earth’s temperature is rising to dangerous levels. The last decade, 2011-2020, has been the warmest on record. Since the 1980s, each decade has been warmer than the previous one. Nearly all land areas are seeing more hot days and heat waves.
5.2 Higher temperatures increase heat-related illnesses and make working outdoors more difficult. Wildfires start more easily and spread more rapidly when conditions are hotter. The polar ice caps are melting and raising oceans to levels which threaten coastal communities and island nations.
5.3 Science tells us why. The increases are caused by the greenhouse effect which occurs when the burning of fossil fuels causes higher and higher quantities of carbon dioxide and certain other gases to be emitted into the atmosphere. This causes global heating, often referred to as ‘climate change’.
5.4 As temperatures rise, more water evaporates causing extreme weather events such as highly destructive storms and flooding to become more frequent. Such storms destroy homes and communities, costing lives and huge economic losses. Insurance companies are withdrawing coverage for such events in many areas.
5.5 Climate change is making water scarcer in more regions, exacerbating water shortages in already water-stressed regions and increasing the risk of agricultural droughts affecting crops. Such droughts have stirred destructive sand and dust storms in some regions that move billions of tons of sand across continents. Deserts are expanding, reducing land for growing food. Millions of people now face the threat of not having enough food or water on a regular basis.
5.6 Climate change also raises the single biggest health threat facing humanity. Climate impacts are already harming health, through air pollution, disease, extreme weather events, forced displacement, pressures on mental health, and increased hunger. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every year, environmental factors take the lives of around 13 million people.
5.7 As temperatures rise, fisheries and agriculture are at risk of becoming less productive or, in some instances, destroyed. As the oceans absorb more carbon dioxide, it becomes more acidic, increasing the danger that marine resources which feed billions of people will no longer be available.
5.8 Most refugees come from countries that are most vulnerable and least ready to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Over the past decade, 2010–2019, weather-related events displaced an estimated 23.1 million people on average each year, leaving many more vulnerable to poverty.
5.9 Continued emissions will further worsen the adverse effects of climate change.
With every additional increase in global temperature, more lives will be lost, more people will become homeless and more communities will be destroyed.
6. Yet governments still continue to issue new permits for, and subsidise the development of, new operations to extract fossil fuels, thereby extending the ongoing damage and further contributing to the problem.
7. Corporations are the invention of governments. Governments are formed to protect the public interest, not destroy it. No corporation or industry should have the right to severely damage the environment to this extent. It cannot be allowed to continue.
Attempts to curtail the emissions have failed
8. At every stage, advocates for the environment have followed the rules of procedure set down by their governments and petitioned for redress before courts, legislatures, and regulatory bodies. Their repeated petitions have gone almost entirely unanswered.
9. So far, there have been 27 Conferences of the Parties where the nations of the world have come together and pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These pledges have largely gone unfulfilled and in some cases ignored by the very governments making them.
10. Fossil fuel companies, their customers and other large emitters have amassed vast political power rendering them impervious to proposed changes in the law which would require the emissions to cease.
11. The combined result is that the enactment of new laws designed to curb emissions has been frustrated allowing the fossil fuel industry and its customers to continue emitting greenhouse gases with impunity. Their invulnerability is strengthened by the government’s heretofore misguided reluctance to restrict business when doing so may slow the economy. The people are no longer ruled by laws protecting the public interest, but by laws protecting the interests of those which destroy it.
The only solution left
12. Governments have directed in the corporate law that company directors are obligated to pursue their corporation’s self-interest without any necessity to preserve the public interest—even from severe harm.
13. Companies emitting the greatest quantities of greenhouse gases have huge amounts invested in property, plant, and technologies causing those emissions. Stopping the emissions and incurring the financial costs associated therewith would contravene the company’s best interests. Consequently, this law encourages directors to allow the emissions to continue and avoid the cost of stopping. Worse, the law legitimises directors’ actions when they allow the emissions to continue.
14. The relationship between government and corporations must be changed. The duty of directors in existing corporate law puts the financial wellbeing of their companies ahead of protecting the environment and other elements of the public interest from severe harm.
15. When government is unable to pass laws stopping corporations from inflicting severe damage, then the only solution is to change corporations. The corporate law must be changed to obligate directors, to make them stop.
16. We, therefore, confident in the correctness and morality of our intentions, do, in the name, and by authority of the good people of every nation, solemnly call upon elected officials (i) to change the existing obligation of corporate directors by adding an obligation to always protect the environment from severe harm, and (ii) to make that obligation a first priority.
17. Specifically, we call upon such officials to add to the duty of directors, which currently states that they must act in the best interests of the corporation, the words “but not at the expense of severe damage to the environment”,and that such change be made effective immediately and require directors to be fully compliant no later than 31 December 2030.
18. In witness whereof, we, the citizens of the world, do hereby ask the delegates of all nations attending the 28th Conference of the Parties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to take all steps practicable to cause their home nations and local jurisdictions to change the corporate law to such effect wherever corporations are organised.
This declaration has been created in acknowledgement of and with due credit to Thomas Jefferson, the principal draftsman of the American Declaration of Independence. It may be reproduced and redistributed freely in the form of a petition to elected officials of governments which have used their power to recognise corporations under law. Assistance in that regard, may be obtained by writing its author, Robert C. Hinkley at email@example.com.