Yesterday marked the start of the civil trial to hold BP accountable for the 2010 oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. As dawn broke in New Orleans, 50 Gulf coast residents and representatives from National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, National Audubon Society, Levees.org, Gulf Restoration Network, Sierra Club and university students came to the Hale Boggs Federal Courthouse to demonstrate that they, like rest of the nation, expect BP to pay for the destruction in the Gulf of Mexico.
Three years after the devastating Deepwater Horizon explosion, the gulf is still suffering. Dolphins are still dying in high numbers of as-yet unexplained causes and additional oil washes ashore after each big storm. In his opening statements today, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell stated that one million barrels of oil remains unaccounted for.
Some people may be asking, “Hasn’t BP paid for the damage?” and the simple answer is no. BP did pay a record-breaking $4 billion penalty in the criminal portion of the case, but BP still faces tens of billions in civil penalties for reckless violations of the Clean Water Act and the Oil Pollution Act.
One of the main issues at hand is whether or not BP is guilty of “gross negligence.” With everything the public knows about the failed tests, the intentional misrepresentations about the size of the spill, and BP’s abysmal safety record, NWF’s legal experts believe the case should be a clear-cut case of gross negligence.
However, media reports indicate that the Department of Justice may have offered BP a lower-than-expected settlement. Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation said, “A potential settlement as low as the reported $16 billion would not be much of a deterrent for an oil giant like BP—and it is unlikely to be enough to fully restore the Gulf of Mexico as the law requires. The Obama Administration can and must do more to hold BP accountable.”
Here's a recap of day one of the BP oil spill trial from Whit Remer, policy analyst for the Environmental Defense Fund:
Yesterday, I watched opening statements from inside the courtroom of one of the most complex and high stakes trials in this nation’s history. The first day of the BP trial consisted of nearly six and a half hours of opening statements by both sides of the litigation. Opening statements allow each party the opportunity to present on overview of their case. On the plaintiffs’ side, attorneys represented citizens who lost income as a result of the oil spill as well as the federal and state governments pursuing claims for economic and environmental damages. On the defense side, BP and other companies involved in the spill spent the majority of the time pointing fingers at each other over who was at fault for the events leading up to one of the nation’s largest environmental disasters.
The first phase of the trial is scheduled to last three months and will focus on the events that caused the explosion aboard the troubled rig. On the plaintiffs’ side, attorneys focused on a series of missteps, mainly taken by BP, that that took the lives of 11 men and spilled millions of gallons of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. A lot of attention was focused on BP putting profit over protection. Plaintiffs painted BP as a company more worried about making money than the safety of its workers or practicing responsible drilling in the gulf. BP defended itself by saying that while they did make some mistakes, their actions didn’t amount to gross negligence.
BP’s irresponsibility will be an overarching theme of the trial. Should the judge determine that the company acted grossly negligent or with willful disregard, then BP faces civil Clean Water Act fines of $17.6 billion. Later phases in the trial will also determine the extent of damages to the gulf ecosystem, which could also reach the tens of billions of dollars.
All parties to the litigation have incentive to settle. The government would like to resolve Clean Water Act fines and natural resources damages so that money can be used to begin important ecosystem restoration. For BP, trial has brought bad PR and uncertainty for investors that will keep them at the bargaining table. In such a high stakes legal dance, both parties need to remember that the gulf is still reeling from damage caused by the oil spill. As Buddy Caldwell, Attorney General for the state of Louisiana, noted this morning, officials continue to find oil just 30 miles from the court steps in Barataria Bay, La. It’s time for BP to stop stalling and pay up for the damage they caused in the gulf.
By Jessica Corbett
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By Ajit Niranjan
World leaders and businesses are not putting enough money into adapting to dangerous changes in the climate and must "urgently step up action," according to a report published Thursday by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Adaptation Has a Long Way to Go<p>The Adaptation Gap Report, now in its 5th year, finds "huge gaps" between what world leaders agreed to do under the 2015 <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/5-years-paris-climate-agreement/a-55901139" target="_blank">Paris Agreement</a> and what they need to do to keep their citizens safe from climate change.</p><p>A review by the Global Adaptation Mapping Initiative of almost 1,700 examples of climate adaptation found that a third were in the early stages of implementation — and only 3% had reached the point of reducing risks.</p><p>Disasters like storms and droughts have grown stronger than they should be because people have warmed the planet by burning fossil fuels and chopping down rainforests. The world has heated by more than 1.1 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution and is on track to warm by about 3°C by the end of the century.</p><p>If world leaders <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-change-performance-index-how-far-have-we-come/a-55846406" target="_blank">deliver on recent pledges</a> to bring emissions to <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/joe-bidens-climate-pledges-are-they-realistic/a-56173821" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">net-zero</a> by the middle of the century, they could almost limit warming to 2°C. The target of the Paris Agreement, however, is to reach a target well below that — ideally 1.5°C. </p><p>There are two ways, scientists say, to lessen the pain that warming will bring: mitigating climate change by cutting carbon pollution and adapting to the hotter, less stable world it brings.</p>
The Cost of Climate Adaptation<p>About three-quarters of the world's countries have national plans to adapt to climate change, according to the report, but most lack the regulations, incentives and funding to make them work.</p><p>More than a decade ago, rich countries most responsible for climate change pledged to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 in climate finance for poorer countries. UNEP says it is "impossible to answer" whether that goal has been met, while an OECD study published in November found that between 2013 and 2018, the target sum had not once been achieved. Even in 2018, which recorded the highest level of contributions, rich countries were still $20 billion short.</p><p>The yearly adaptation costs for developing countries alone are estimated at $70 billion. This figure is expected to at least double by the end of the decade as temperatures rise, and will hit $280-500 billion by 2050, according to the report.</p><p>But failing to adapt is even more expensive.</p><p>When powerful storms like cyclones Fani and Bulbul struck South Asia, early-warning systems allowed governments to move millions of people out of danger at short notice. Storms of similar strength that have hit East Africa, like <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/zimbabwe-after-cyclone-idai-building-climate-friendly-practices/a-54251885" target="_blank">cyclones Idai</a> and Kenneth, have proved more deadly because fewer people were evacuated before disaster struck.</p><p>The Global Commission on Adaptation estimated in 2019 that a $1.8 trillion investment in early warning systems, buildings, agriculture, mangroves and water resources could reap $7.1 trillion in benefits from economic activity and avoided costs when disasters strike.</p>
Exploring Nature-Based Solutions<p>The report also highlights how restoring nature can protect people from climate change while benefiting local communities and ecology.</p><p><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/climate-fires-risk-climate-change-bushfires-australia-california-extreme-weather-firefighters/a-54817927" target="_blank">Wildfires</a>, for instance, could be made less punishing by restoring grasslands and regularly burning the land in controlled settings. Indigenous communities from Australia to Canada have done this for millennia in a way that encourages plant growth while reducing the risk of uncontrolled wildfires. Reforestation, meanwhile, can stop soil erosion and flooding during heavy rainfall while trapping carbon and protecting wildlife.</p><p>In countries like Brazil and Malaysia, governments could better protect coastal homes from floods and storms by restoring <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/mudflats-mangroves-and-marshes-the-great-coastal-protectors/a-50628747" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mangroves</a> — tangled trees that grow in tropical swamps. As well as anchoring sediments and absorbing the crash of waves, mangroves can store carbon, help fish populations grow and boost local economies through tourism. </p><p>While nature-based solutions are often cheaper than building hard infrastructure, their funding makes up a "tiny fraction" of adaptation finance, the report authors wrote. An analysis of four global climate funds that spent $94 billion on adaptation projects found that just $12 billion went to nature-based solutions and little of this was spent implementing projects on the ground.</p><p>But little is known about their long-term effectiveness. At higher temperatures, the effects of climate change may be so great that they overwhelm natural defenses like mangroves.</p><p>By 2050, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/rising-sea-levels-should-we-let-the-ocean-in-a-50704953/a-50704953" target="_blank">coastal floods</a> that used to hit once a century will strike many cities every year, according to a 2019 report on oceans by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the gold standard on climate science. This could force dense cities on low-lying coasts to build higher sea walls, like in Indonesia and South Korea, or evacuate entire communities from sinking islands, like in Fiji.</p><p>It's not a case of replacing infrastructure, said Matthias Garschagen, a geographer at Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany and IPCC author, who was not involved in the UNEP report. "The case for nature-based solutions is often misinterpreted as a battle... but they're part of a toolkit that we've ignored for too long."</p>
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