The Shoalhaven Declaration describes a solution for ending the abuses to the environment by changing the corporate law – everywhere – to require company directors to never again allow their companies to cause severe damage to the environment.
By Robert C. Hinkley*
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 allow entities which it sponsors to 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 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.
* The author thanks Mik Aidt of the Centre for Climate Safety and Prof. Jean Du Plessis, Deakin University School of Law, for their input and assistance.
→ Read The Shoalhaven Declaration
The Shoalhaven Declaration: Action needed
As the world grapples with the escalating crisis of climate change, the Shoalhaven Declaration emerges as a pivotal solution, addressing a critical gap left by the United Nations’ Conferences of the Parties (COP) process. This Declaration proposes a transformative approach to environmental protection, fundamentally altering corporate law worldwide to prioritise the environment over profit.
The need for such a revolutionary change stems from the evident failures of the COP process. Despite 27 global climate summits and numerous pledges by governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, little progress has been made. Governments worldwide have consistently fallen short in protecting the environment from global warming and climate change, as evidenced by the ongoing environmental degradation and the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations.
The Shoalhaven Declaration seeks to rectify this by making it legally mandatory for company directors to prevent their companies from causing severe environmental damage. This approach targets the root of the problem – the corporations significantly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. By holding company directors legally accountable, the Declaration aims to make environmental protection a fundamental aspect of corporate responsibility, superseding the sole focus on shareholder interests.
Legal changes create lasting, systemic impact. The Shoalhaven Declaration represents a crucial step towards a more sustainable and environmentally responsible future. By changing the legal framework governing corporate behavior, it aims to ensure that the pursuit of profit does not come at the expense of our planet’s health.
Its success, however, hinges on the collective action and support of people worldwide. Engaging in efforts to change the law will have to include lobbying, participating in public consultations, collaborating with environmental organisations, and even running for political office.
For the Shoalhaven Declaration to make a groundbreaking difference, it requires widespread public support and action. This can be achieved through various means:
Grassroots movements: Mobilising community-based movements to advocate for the adoption of the principles outlined in the Shoalhaven Declaration. These movements can organise rallies, awareness campaigns, and educational workshops to inform the public about the importance of changing corporate laws for environmental protection.
Social media campaigns: Utilising social media platforms to spread awareness and garner support. Campaigns can include sharing informative content, creating viral hashtags, and encouraging influencers and celebrities to endorse the Declaration.
Petitions and lobbying: Organising petitions both online and offline to demonstrate public support for the Declaration. Additionally, lobbying efforts targeting legislators and policymakers can be employed to push for the incorporation of the Declaration’s principles into national laws.
Collaboration with environmental NGOs: Partnering with environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) can provide a platform for joint advocacy efforts. These organisations often have established networks and resources that can amplify the reach and impact of the campaign.
Educational initiatives: Conducting workshops, seminars, and webinars in schools, universities, and community centers to educate the public about the importance of corporate environmental responsibility and the role of the Shoalhaven Declaration in achieving it.