Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Climate Secrets at the UK Supreme Court

Organizers of a climate conference co-sponsored by the UK Supreme Court won’t reveal who attended, how much the event cost, or how many participants had their airfare paid by the United Nations.


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Last month, the UK Supreme Court co-sponsored a 3-day climate change conference. There are a number of reasons why this should ring alarm bells, but organizers have unexpectedly added another one: refusal to answer routine media inquiries.

The organizers of this conference weren’t shy about promoting it. A keynote speech was live-streamed over the Internet, with viewers invited to pose questions via a unique Twitter hashtag. 170 high-resolution images were subsequently posted to the Flickr photo-sharing service, making it clear that camera shutters were busy throughout and that no one in attendance had any reasonable expectation of privacy. In many of these photos, participant name tags are discernible. Name cards are also in evidence on conference tables.

Yet a complete list of participants is Secret #1. As organizer Emily Barritt advised me in a Sept. 29 e-mail:

Whilst we are very happy to provide numbers and countries of residence I am not able to provide you with names as we have not asked permission from attendees to make such information generally available. You could however gather names of some of the participants by looking at those who used the Twitter hashtag #climatecourts during the conference. [bold added]

This conference received public funding from three separate sources. In addition to the Supreme Court, Her Majesty’s Government was also an official sponsor. The primary organizer was the Dickson Poon Law School at the publicly-funded King’s College London. Yet organizers refuse to reveal the the identities of the “leading judges, lawyers and legal academics” who traveled from 11 other nations to do all that schmoozing and drink all that wine.


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Secret #2 is how much this event cost. On Sept. 29 I asked Dr. Barritt about the total, overall budget. Having received no response, 48 hours later I sent a polite follow-up. Seventy-two hours after my initial request, Dr. Barritt’s reply ignored my question entirely. In fact, it contained not a single number. Instead, I was unhelpfully advised:

The bulk of the conference was funded by The Dickson Poon Law School. Many of the participants paid their own airfare. There were some contributions from The [UK Supreme Court] & [Her Majesty’s] Government for equipment & catering costs and the [Asian Development Bank] and UNEP funded the cost of the travel of a few of the participants.

In other words, Secret #3 is the amount the law school spent on this event (described by Dr. Barritt as “the bulk” of the funding).

Secret #4 is the amount spent by the Journal of Environmental Law (a question I posed, but Dr. Barritt failed to address).

Secret #5 is the amount the UK Supreme Court spent on equipment and catering.

Secret #6 is the amount Her Majesty’s Government spent on equipment and catering.

Secret #7 is the number and identity of the participants who paid their own airfare to this event (described by Dr. Barritt as “many”).


Sponsors of the 3-day climate conference. Image is a screen grab from 12+ seconds into a video on the Supreme Court’s YouTube channel (click)

Which brings us to the most significant information being concealed:

Secret #8 is the number and identity of the participants whose travel costs were paid by the Asian Development Bank (while Dr. Barritt describes this as “a few,” the ADB logo appears first and is rather large in the above pictorial display).

Secret #9 is the number and identity of the participants whose travel costs were paid by the United Nations Environment Programme (also described by Dr. Barritt as “a few”).

Remember, these are some of the world’s most influential judges, lawyers, and scholars. What are they doing taking money from a bank – and from the United Nations! Has no one here ever heard of conflict-of-interest – or that appearances matter?

Where climate change is concerned, the United Nations is the furthest thing imaginable from a disinterested party. It has several horses in this race. Entire UN bureaucracies are devoted to climate matters, not to mention the decades-old climate treaty the UN is desperately trying to resuscitate.

How many of the world’s top judges attended this conference on the UN’s dime? How many other prominent legal minds are now, in the wake of this conference, professionally and financially entangled with the UN?


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a minor edit was made to the third-last paragraph of this post within a few hours of its publication


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