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James Thornton
James Thornton is CEO of ClientEarth, the only pan-European public interest environmental law group. ClientEarth works on climate change, biodiversity protection, human health and access to justice. James’s new book is the legal thriller ‘Immediate Harm’.

Entries by James Thornton

The Challenge for China's Lungs

(3) Comments | Posted August 24, 2015 | 5:49 PM

A study recently released by Berkeley Earth made for sobering reading. The authors find that air pollution contributes to 1.6 million deaths a year in China, about 17% of deaths in the country.

Coal burned to supply power to China's economic miracle is a source...

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People Demand Answers in EU-US Trade Deal

(0) Comments | Posted January 15, 2015 | 7:15 AM

Last summer, the European Commission consulted the public on controversial provisions of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) - the ambitious trade and investment deal it is negotiating with the US. It received an extraordinary reply, from nearly 150,000 people and organizations across Europe. To put that...

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Good news from Lima: Climate Deal 2014

(2) Comments | Posted December 14, 2014 | 1:58 PM

Al Jazeera called today, Sunday morning, at 6:45 a.m. They wanted me to appear live in London on their morning news. Why the early call? Negotiators had stayed up all night at the global climate change conference in Lima, and just reached an agreement. I jumped in the taxi.


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Overfishing Threatens Our Oceans - Again

(1) Comments | Posted December 1, 2014 | 11:53 AM

Last year, the British public helped win a hard-fought battle to protect our oceans from overfishing. On December 3rd, their work might be unravelled. EU politicians are voting on what was supposed to be a technical detail of the new, improved fisheries law. Unfortunately, the vote risks being...

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Which Fish Can We Eat Now?

(0) Comments | Posted September 16, 2014 | 7:19 AM

We like eating fish so we want fish to eat. Sadly, our great oceans don't have an endless supply so we can't all eat all of the fish all of the time. Therefore, we need to ask "which fish can we eat now?"

There is no simple answer to this...

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Your Safety Is a Barrier to Trade

(0) Comments | Posted August 5, 2014 | 2:54 PM

Industry lobbyists are working to ensure a new transatlantic trade deal gives commercial interests precedence over public health. Environmental lawyers at ClientEarth have shown that at least one part of the proposals is both anti-democratic and illegal.

Improving relations between Europe and the U.S. is a noble aim....

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Justice Being Done

(0) Comments | Posted July 22, 2013 | 11:36 AM

The Supreme Court of the UK recently issued an historic ruling, holding the government liable for air pollution, in a case brought by citizens. The historic importance of the case has several dimensions.

The first dimension is the substance. By the government's own numbers some...

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5 Key Changes That Will Secure the Future of Our Forests

(4) Comments | Posted March 21, 2013 | 12:44 PM

Deforestation destroys ecosystems and increases carbon emissions. The cause of deforestation is twofold: over-consumption and a failure of governance.

The way to protect forests is a holistic approach. It starts with the simple premise that we must use limited (and slow to regenerate) resources in a way that respects their...

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Modern Arms for the Modern World

(23) Comments | Posted February 22, 2013 | 3:23 PM

In the present debate about gun control in the US, both sides consistently fail to push the analysis deep enough. Debate stays mired in superficial questions such as whether every child should carry an assault rifle to school.

We need to use the tools of legal analysis to get...

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The EU's Attack on Citizens' Right to Know

(0) Comments | Posted August 29, 2012 | 5:17 AM

The European Commission is engaged in a war against its citizens right to know.

This might not strike you as a very important issue. On the contrary, it goes to the heart of democracy.

Only when citizens and journalists have access to the information that authorities use to...

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One for the Whales

(13) Comments | Posted August 20, 2012 | 2:52 PM

Greenland is out to kill whales. It's hard to really understand why. It's true they have been allowed some 'subsistence' whaling. The idea is that native people who are dependent on whales for food should still be allowed to take some whales.

One might question this idea of subsistence...

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What Judges Don't Know

(1) Comments | Posted June 28, 2012 | 11:03 AM

If foxes know many things and hedgehogs one big thing, what do judges know? The law? That would be a reasonable assumption. But in the U.K. and the rest of Europe, when it comes to the environment, judges often don't know the law. And they can be wilful in remaining...

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Are Climate Change Reporters an Endangered Species?

(751) Comments | Posted December 25, 2011 | 4:07 PM

Why aren't we seeing more coverage of climate change in the media? The issue is hardly going away. And now that world governments after Durban are not planning to take action 'til 2020, we need more coverage, not less.

Yet environmentalists reported a drop off in climate change reporting in...

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Fossil Fuels v. EPA: Europeans Join the Fray

(9) Comments | Posted August 29, 2011 | 11:11 AM

Today I'm writing about one of the most important cases before the U.S. courts this year. Called Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA, it is being argued before the federal Court of Appeals in Washington. It will decide whether the U.S. Government can regulate greenhouse gases.

Because Congress has...

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One Year to the London Olympics - Breathe it in

(1) Comments | Posted July 29, 2011 | 6:29 AM

It is one year until the Olympics. The race is now on to complete the Olympic park and master the logistics of ferrying more than 3 million spectators and athletes to and from events.

But time pressure isn't the only reason Londoners won't want to pause for breath.


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For World Oceans Day, Revisit Europe's Fishing Policy

(2) Comments | Posted June 7, 2011 | 12:54 PM

Americans are proud of our achievements and freedoms. We are also, famously, the greatest consumers on the planet. Countries across the globe are now jostling for this title, and here in Europe they are determined to give us a run for our money. They have started with the food on...

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On the Menu This Week: Pesticides

(1) Comments | Posted May 9, 2011 | 4:04 PM

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was set up in 2002 as an independent watchdog working to avoid and address food risks (and food crises) in Europe. EFSA's goal is "to become globally recognized as the European reference body for risk assessment on food and feed safety, animal...

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Striking a Blow for Environmental Justice in Europe

(1) Comments | Posted May 6, 2011 | 2:06 PM

In America, we think the grass is always greener. We assume that Europe is more civilized and sophisticated than we are. This turns out to be entirely wrong when it comes to access to justice for citizens, in which the United States is a model.

If you're a citizen...

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F-Gases: An Essential Landmark for Europe's Low-Carbon Roadmap

(0) Comments | Posted March 15, 2011 | 4:37 PM

Next week, the EU's Council of Ministers will meet to discuss Europe's Roadmap for moving to a competitive low-carbon economy in 2050. This document charts the route that member states must follow to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with the ultimate aim of keeping global temperature rises within safe...

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The New Face of an Old Enemy

(45) Comments | Posted February 25, 2011 | 8:37 AM

Unexpected threats to the health of global systems keep emerging. Twenty years ago we didn't recognize global warming. Ten years ago we didn't know about ocean acidification. This might be the landmark week in which a broad public recognized a new threat to the global climate -- black carbon.

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