Double jeopardy prohibits different prosecutions for the same offense. This rule can come into play when a government brings a charge against someone for an incident, then prosecutes that person again for the same incident, only with a different charge.
For example, if a defendant is found not guilty of manslaughter in a drunk-driving incident, he or she cannot be tried again in criminal court. However, the deceased victim’s family is free to sue the defendant for wrongful death in a civil court to recover financial damages.
A situation of double jeopardy could possibly be invoked when an authority brings a charge against an electricity supplier for harmful combustion of fossil fuels. Improper waste disposal is an environmental crime and could be heard in a criminal court. If they are found not guilty, they cannot be tried again in the criminal court for the same incident with a different charge, for example pollution, However, the plaintiff is free to sue them in a civil court for wrongful polluting of air.
A defendant could maintain that non-renewable fuel combustion cannot be both polluting and resource – diminishing at the same time, for when that resource is not renewed, it cannot also cause pollution. The prosecutor cannot have a resource cake with pollution eating it at the same time.
The double jeopardy principle prevents courts contradicting each other.
Although the example situation above could not be dealt with by existing legislation, it could be a guide to fair treatment of alleged polluters from non-renewable resources. Resource depletion should be tested legally separately from alleged pollution.
The situation is notionally relevant to prosecution of fossil fuel compliance when neither pollution nor depletion have corroborating scientific evidence in Australia. A shifted climate science paradigm is explained in the novel Animal Farm 2.
Energy was rationed in war-time to conserve scarce supplies. Less severe scarcity was dealt with by allowing the price to rise. A person’s energy consumption was mostly unregulated, without limits on demand.
The Paris Agreement in 2016 . . .
‘. . . set out a global framework signed by 192 nations to avoid dangerous climate change with a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels; to aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change; the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries; to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science, so as to achieve a balance between emissions and containment in the second half of the century.’
Under this agreement, nations ‘volunteered’ to limit emission levels. A small number of nations emit most of the emissions and these high emitters would observe the same growth limits as low emitters. Nations causing most warming would have the same proportional restriction as those causing least.
The focus on so-called greenhouse gases, having warming qualities which are hypothetical, are associated with energy emissions from combustion, either by direct release in combustion or indirectly from intermediate products such as electricity, during and after use. Thermal energy emissions are more significant but not included.
The burden of emissions reduction would fall on developed nations with the highest per capita electricity consumption, with self-indulgent demand such as for air conditioning, whereas poor nations might possibly have no electricity connected and need the growth desperately? In developed countries, most energy is consumed as electricity and petrol.
In a developed country, the restriction of emissions growth could conceivably limit the use of a third family car, whereas in an undeveloped country, a carless family could have use of its washing machine limited, requiring more manual labour. Is this an equitable difference?
There is no precedent for the limitation by The Paris Agreement, of demand for energy, or any commodity, in order to make a contribution to reducing universal external costs of climate change. It is an unprecedented restriction of energy growth with disproportionate effect on developing countries. At best, it is a bold attempt to rein in emissions growth but heavily weighted against low energy users who need that growth to develop.
At worst, the regulation of emissions limits standards of living, because emissions are associated with combustion and energy consumption, as is the standard of living.
Do people have a right to limitless energy consumption, as they do to oxygen from the air? Per capita emissions in developed nations are much larger than in undeveloped nations who would be cutback proportionally. Could the developed nations cutback their emissions without preventing developing countries attaining a similar standard of energy use? Could emissions cuts depend on emissions, in the same way that income tax rates depend on income. Emitters should have to suffer greater cuts proportional to their high energy use. High polluters should have to compensate low polluters.
An energy consumption tax is needed, whose function is to penalize high personal consumption of high-emission energy and subsidise low consumption, low-emission energy.
If you agree, tell your politician.
My other writing on growth, energy and rights is at https://martinknox.com