Record Rainfall: A New Climatic Reality for the UAE?

“How do you know how much precipitation that might actually end up falling from that cloud occurred due to the seeding? Or how much would have fallen without the seeding?”

– Daniel Swain, Climate Scientist at UCLA

Monday marked a historic weather event in the United Arab Emirates, beyond anything documented since records began in 1949.

The desert region, typically semi-arid, has experienced the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in the province. Rain began late on Monday, with 0.79 inches recorded according to the meteorological data collected at Dubai International Airport. By the end of Tuesday, this figure had skyrocketed to 5.59 inches of rainfall over 24 hours, soaking the city of Dubai—a volume higher than what the city typically receives in an average year, all occurring within a few hours.

Paul Griffiths, the CEO of Dubai Airport, acknowledged the disruption caused by the deluge at the world’s busiest airfield for international travel. He described this weather event as leading to ‘challenging times’ for the airport and its staff, as this intense rainfall across the UAE has led the province into unchartered territory.

All operations at Dubai Airport were halted for 25 minutes on Tuesday afternoon as floodwaters overwhelmed surrounding roads and runways, making it unsafe for flights to land. Some aircraft were diverted to Al Maktoum International Airport at the Dubai World Central, which is the city’s second airfield and gradually expanding to become the largest civilian airport in the world.

Was this Historic Rainfall a Product of Cloud Seeding?

The cause of this weather anomaly is speculated to have been caused by cloud seeding, a method frequently used in the country to increase precipitation in areas unaccustomed to consistent rainfall. According to the Desert Research Institute, this process involves introducing tiny particles called nuclei into the atmosphere, which help water condense. Planes operated by the government deploy special salt flares to burn in the clouds during this process, helping to induce precipitation. Meteorologists at the National Center for Meteorology reported conducting around six cloud-seeding flights on the Sunday before the rainfall began. However, whether these operations occurred remains unconfirmed. Flight tracking data has indicated that an aircraft associated with the UAE’s cloud seeding efforts was active over the country on Sunday.

Or, Could Climate Change Be the Real Culprit?

Contrary to this theory, meteorologists and scientists worldwide have suggested that the deluge was not caused by cloud seeding but was instead a consequence of climate change. Keff Hamsters, a meteorologist for Yale Climate Connections, stated that the rainfall event could be attributed to the general increase in extreme weather events—such as storms, droughts, floods, and wildfires—caused by climate change.

Similarly, climate scientist Daniel Swain from UCLA, said that climate change likely played a more significant role than cloud seeding in this particular storm, as warmer temperatures increase evaporation and can lead to more intense storms.

How Inadequate Planning Exacerbated the Crisis

Furthermore, urban planning issues contributed to the catastrophic flooding. The soil in semi-arid regions like the UAE is not well-suited to quickly absorb water, which means that even moderate rainfall is sufficient to cause flooding. Meteorologist Ryan Maue, former Chief Scientist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has asserted that the storm was ‘certainly’ not due to cloud seeding.

Instead, he pointed out that the risk of flash flooding, while possible almost everywhere on Earth, is often overlooked in urban planning and infrastructure decisions. He went on to emphasise that such extreme weather events should highlight the importance of resilience measures- or rather the fact that it should be standard operating procedure to integrate these measures into urban planning.

In Conclusion

The unprecedented rainfall in Dubai has highlighted several critical issues that demand attention. First, the potential role of cloud seeding in exacerbating this weather event, while debated, underscores the need for careful consideration in the deployment of such technologies. Experts remain divided on whether the intense precipitation was a result of artificial intervention or a natural consequence of climate change. This incident serves as a stark reminder of the increasingly volatile and unpredictable weather patterns the world is facing as global temperatures continue to rise.

A Global Warning: Learning from the UAE’s Crisis to Aid Climate Vulnerable Nations

As global temperatures continue to rise, the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events will only increase. The UAE, a developed urban centre, is facing extreme challenges and has shown that urban planning needs to incorporate more robust resilience measures.

This raises a critical question: what about less developed countries which have been experiencing the impacts of climate change for years? These nations often lack the resources to implement comprehensive resilience strategies. For more insights into how these vulnerabilities affect various countries globally, read here: 10 Countries at Risk from Climate Disaster.

©Lawrence Power 2024

What is a Civil Restraint Order? And When is it Issued?

A civil restraint order (CRO) is a legal measure implemented by a court, designed to prevent the misuse of the judicial system through frivolous or vexatious litigation. Essentially, these orders limit an individual’s ability to make further applications to the court. As such, any form of a CRO carries significant implications for litigants: affecting both the success of their case and – potentially – their ability to access the courts in future.

When a court dismisses an application as being completely devoid of merit, it is then obligated to consider whether it is appropriate to issue a CRO. The criterion for an application being ‘totally without merit’ hinges on its likelihood of failure – it is not necessary to prove that the application was vexatious or abusive.

However, there are instances where an application might have merit, but the surrounding circumstances warrant the court’s consideration of a CRO. For example, in R (Henry) v Bar Standards Board, the claimant’s track record of similar, meritless applications was considered sufficient grounds for the imposition of a CRO.

This illustrates the court’s broad discretion in issuing a CRO when they perceive an application to be without merit and vexatious.

Civil restraint orders can be categorised into three types:

1. A limited CRO is a court order that prevents individuals recognised as vexatious litigants from making any further applications in ongoing proceedings without court permission. It is applicable when an individual has made two or more applications that are totally without merit. This order remains effective for the duration of the proceedings in which it is made unless otherwise ordered by the court.

2. An extended CRO order goes beyond this, with the breadth and severity of the restrictions depending on the court from which the order is issued. For example, an order from a designated civil judge restricts any applications to the County Court related to the specific proceedings, while an order from a Court of Appeal judge prohibits applications in any court. These orders can last up to three years and are issued in cases where a party persistently submits meritless applications.

3. A general CRO is the most severe type. It is reserved for situations where a party continuously files baseless applications, and an extended CRO would not be sufficient or appropriate. Similar to extended CROs, this order is effective for three years, but their scope varies based on the issuing court. This order restricts the ability of a party to bring any application before the court, related or unrelated to the proceedings in which it is issued.

Submitting further applications that are deemed completely without merit can result in the revocation of the right to appeal.

The severe consequences of CROs underscore the judicial system’s serious stance on vexatious litigation. Individuals subject to these orders not only face significant restrictions on their access to justice but also are listed on an online register of vexatious litigants, marking their abuse of the legal system.

© Lawrence Power 2024

Navigating The Deepfake Dilemma

Ethical, Legal, and Societal Implications

As you settle into your usual routine of scrolling through emails, you stumble upon a video that sends a chill down your spine. In disbelief, you and millions of other users on the internet watch a video of yourself crying and confessing to crimes you never committed. Shocked and confused about what you just witnessed, your phone starts buzzing with notifications from family, friends, colleagues, employers, and officials, all seeking explanations.

Welcome to the era of deepfakes.

Deepfakes are a form of synthetic media generated through AI techniques, primarily deep learning algorithms, to create or alter visual and audio content so convincingly that it appears genuine. As we navigate the ever-evolving digital landscape, we are confronted with an unsettling reality: what we see and hear may not always be what it seems.

In recent months, headlines have been dominated by chilling accounts of victims falling prey to meticulously crafted illusions. Yet, the threat of deepfakes goes beyond financial fraud or celebrity scandal. With the looming spectre of deepfakes over the political landscape, the very fabric of our governing system hangs in the balance.

One critical question emerges: Should creating deepfake content without a person’s consent be illegal?

It is a question that challenges us to confront the ethical dilemmas posed by rapidly advancing technology. We must unravel the complexities of deepfake’s impact on our society and consider the pressing need for decisive action in an age of deception and uncertainty.

Recent incidents involving Taylor Swift demonstrate the continued evolution of deepfakes. The circulation of sexually explicit deepfake images of Swift, reaching millions of views before being removed, highlights the alarming ease with which the manipulated content can be disseminated online.

The Biden administration has condemned the spread of deepfake content, calling on social media companies to take more responsibility. But is mere condemnation sufficient at this stage? Especially when deepfake technology has evolved to the point of reaching a much larger, mainstream audience.

Consider the current situation in Hong Kong, where an employee fell victim to a deepfake video conference call impersonating senior officers. Deceived by false replicas, the employee unwittingly transferred millions of dollars to fraudsters. This incident spotlights the vulnerabilities inherent in remote communication platforms, which are only becoming more prevalent. Instances of deepfake fraud can have far-reaching consequences for businesses, investors, and the economy at large.

Deepfake manipulations risk causing market instability. False information spread through deepfake content could trigger panic selling, resulting in significant losses for investors and destabilising the broader economy. As investors lose confidence in the integrity of financial markets, capital flows may be disrupted, thus potentially hindering economic growth and development.

This incident emphasises the growing threat to political integrity and democratic processes. Synthetic media leads to a distrust in the political process and corrupted electoral outcomes. It’s become far too easy to spread a fake video of a politician engaging in unethical or criminal behaviour. This technology’s capacity for misinformation, propaganda, and polarising narratives poses significant risks to international relations and societal cohesion.

All instances of deepfakes so far have been inherently negative, spread by malicious actors working for their personal gain while wreaking havoc on the rest of society. There are, however, arguments that support deepfakes.

Just like other technological developments, deepfakes were not created with malicious intent. The scope for positive gains from deepfakes is expansive. For example, deepfakes can create realistic digital doubles of criminal suspects using forensic evidence, thus streamlining the investigation process. Prediction models can also be improved upon, emergency scenarios can be simulated, and it can improve accessibility for individuals with disabilities by enabling the creation of synthetic speech, sign language interpretation, and facial expressions.

Ultimately, deepfakes are a tool. A tool with far too much power to be left in the hands of any individual who utilises it for their own gain. Policymakers and regulators face the daunting task of addressing the unique threats posed by synthetic media. Should this technology be banned altogether? Should we consider the potential benefits that can come from the regulated use of deepfakes? New legislations are in the works, such as the Digital Imprints Regime which requires AI-generated content to have an imprint when uploaded. This is a step in the right direction, but will it be enough? It may prevent misinformation but what about violation of privacy rights or defamation?

Perhaps focusing on regulation by outlawing misinformed deepfakes is a strong first step. Nonetheless, the impacts of deepfakes are intertwined and intricate. Only by working together, across sectors and borders, can we confront the challenges and opportunities posed by deepfake manipulation while ensuring that our rights and values endure for generations to come.

© Lawrence Power 2024

Assessing the Efficacy of the Paris Agreement: Goals, Challenges, and Global Climate Action Progress

In 2015, 195 countries agreed to endorse the Paris Agreement which sought to try and prevent the rising of the earth’s average temperature among the other effects of climate change. For the first time in history, nearly all the world’s nations committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to help combat this growing crisis. The agreement outlined three primary objectives: firstly, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to prevent global temperatures from warming more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels; secondly, to review each country’s emission reduction commitments every 5 years; and thirdly, to ensure that developing nations (most often being the most affected by climate change) have access to climate finance to mitigate the effects of climate change. These goals, along with the ambition to achieve net zero emissions, set forth a historic moment for global politics as it was legally binding for all signatories and set forth a strong and unified goal to mitigate the harm of climate change.

The central goal of the Paris Agreement was to limit global warming to only 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, considered as a ‘long-term average’ or about 20 years. However, recent measurements have reported the global temperature average being 1.52°C higher than pre-industrial levels. While this does not currently constitute a violation of the Paris Agreement, it serves as a stark warning of what lies ahead without substantial action from all signatory nations.

Many experts have again reiterated that swift and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are the only way to stop increasing temperatures. Yet some governments seem to still be finding their footing with regard to the importance of implementing effective climate measures. For example, in the UK, where many green policies have been delayed. Countries like Canada and Germany have received an average rating on the Climate Action Trackers for their net-zero target design elements. This indicates that their current policies and strategies for achieving net zero lack critical components.

This is concerning, as many other signatories of the Paris Agreement are rated as average or poor in their climate action plans, missing up to seven of the nine essential practices for achieving net zero or reducing carbon emissions. Despite the initial surge in climate policy momentum in 2015, such efforts have dwindled and climate policy seems to not be developing at the rate it must to counteract global warming.

An assessment by the Climate Action Tracker of the current efforts being taken by the 195 countries suggests that the objectives of the Paris Agreement are unlikely to be met. Achieving these goals would require nearly halving greenhouse gas emissions, along with additional adjustments, a target that seems unrealistic given the current rate at which governments are implementing climate-focused legislation.

Although the Paris Agreement was a significant demonstration of global unity against climate change, the actions taken by individual countries have fallen short of the commitments made, underscoring the need for increased effort and cooperation to address the worsening climate crisis effectively. It is necessary for businesses in the UK to seek advice as to what steps they can take, not just to deal with scope emissions but also to deliver new circular economy frameworks for their sectors.

© Lawrence Power 2024

Who is the Climate Change Committee, and what do they do?

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) stands as an independent statutory entity body established by the Climate Change Act 2008. Its core function is to advise the UK and its devolved governments on setting emissions targets and to serve as an impartial advisor on mitigating climate change. The CCC reports to Parliament regarding progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in preparing for, as well as adapting to, the impacts of climate change. It offers a long-term perspective on UK climate policy.

The CCC functions as a non-departmental public body and is sponsored by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero. Despite being publicly funded, the CCC lacks budgetary independence, a situation it offsets with a commitment to transparency. It publishes reports, supporting data, and research in full. Moreover, under the Freedom of Information Act, the public has the right to request any recorded information held by the CCC on any subject that falls under their scope.

The advice of the CCC has been instrumental in shaping legislation and policies across the UK, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This expert technical advisory body’s recommendations have significantly influenced climate change and environmental legislation and policies in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

A key aspect of the CCC’s work involves the reduction of the UK’s emissions through the assessment of the latest greenhouse gas emissions data. This is to determine whether the UK is on track to meet its carbon budget targets, which set limits on the amount of greenhouse gases in the UK over five years.

As a signatory to the Paris Agreement, the UK government is committed under the Climate Change Act to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050. This Act has formalised the UK’s approach to combating climate change. It requires the UK government to establish legally binding carbon budgets, moving towards the 2050 target, with an emphasis on both mitigating emissions and adapting to increase resilience against climate change. The CCC plays a crucial role in maintaining the UK’s focus on achieving this long-term target.

The Adaptation Committee, a branch of the CCC, advises the government on the climate risks and opportunities for the UK. The committee leads the development of an independent evidence report, which informs the statutory UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, and biennially reports on England’s progress. The CCC’s methodologies have reached beyond the UK, with countries like New Zealand and Korea adopting elements of its framework for their climate risk assessments.

The CCC lacks ‘formal powers’ to alter the government’s climate change strategy and instead depends on the potential political embarrassment that its assessments may cause, alongside the threat of judicial review by environmental groups to enforce its statutory obligations under the Climate Change Act. This reliance on informal power has meant that some recommendations have been ignored, and the government has not always adopted the suggested policies. An example is the UK’s reluctance to reduce meat consumption, despite the CCC’s warnings that the government was not on track to meet its 2030 climate targets set before COP26 in Glasgow.

As a result of this noncompliance, the CCC’s progress assessments have become increasingly explicit, this evolution has made it easier for the public to judge the government’s response to the discrepancy between climate targets and the policies intended to achieve them.

Read the 2023 report.

© Lawrence Power 2024

How to Effectively Share Your Commitment to the UN’s Social Development Goals with Clients.

Final Part of the “Power” Guide Trilogy

As a business owner committed to social change, you will be already familiar with the term “Social Development Goals”, (SDGs), and are eager to contribute to their impact. The SDGs, established by the United Nations in 2015, consist of 17 global objectives. These goals are designed to address the world’s most pressing issues, such as poverty, inequality and climate change. They provide a blueprint for a more sustainable, fair and prosperous future for all, not just first-world countries. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved by 2030 and progress towards these targets is regularly monitored. While there’s still a long way to go, the SDGs arguably represent a beacon of hope for a better world. However, a significant challenge many organisations face is effectively communicating their dedication to these goals to their clients.

So, how can you confidently share your involvement with the SDGs in a genuine way that avoids the appearance of being insincere or opportunistic?

1. Understand Your Audience

Successful communication starts with knowing your audience. Identify who you are trying to reach, what motivates them, and their needs and preferences. This knowledge allows you to tailor your SDG messaging to resonate better, capture attention, and inspire them to take action. Think about who they are as people and what they care about.

2. Be Open About Progress & Challenges

Demonstrating sincerity involves honesty and transparency about your journey, both the successes and the setbacks. We are all human at our core. Sharing your challenges humanises your business, inviting support and constructive feedback instead of criticism. While vulnerability can be daunting, the benefits of openness outweigh the risks. Acknowledge mistakes and share your plans for improvement.

3. Highlight SDG-Aligned Projects and Initiatives

Collective actions from governments, civil society, and businesses are essential for achieving the SDGs. Highlight the projects and initiatives your business undertakes that align with these goals, whether it’s sustainable farming, improving healthcare access, or promoting gender equality. These efforts showcase your commitment to making a tangible difference.

4. Share Impact Data and Beneficiary Testimonials

Providing concrete examples of the positive impact of your efforts can be incredibly persuasive. Share impact data and testimonials from those you have helped to illustrate the significance of your work. Whether it is gratitude expressed in a thank-you letter or statistics demonstrating the community benefits, these stories underscore the value of your commitment.

5. Ensure Consistency with Your Values and Goals

All communications about your SDGs efforts should reflect your company’s values and goals. This coherence reinforces a unified message that resonates with your audience and clarifies your mission. Ultimately, aligning your SDG communications with your organisational ethos strengthens your brand identity.

6. Regularly Update Clients on Your Progress

Measuring and sharing progress is crucial. The SDG goals, specifically, are to help create a better world for everyone. That’s why it is important to demonstrate to your clients that you take your commitment to creating a better world seriously by regularly sharing both successes and areas for improvement. Share your progress (good and bad) with them. Transparency and ongoing communication are essential for building trust and keeping your clients engaged with your efforts.

Are you looking to achieve your sustainability goals with legal precision? I am available as a specialist legal counsel. I can ensure your business not only meets but exceeds its sustainability targets.

© Lawrence Power 2024

How Businesses Can Align With The SDGs For Social Governance Success

Part Two of the “Power” Guide Trilogy

With escalating concerns regarding environmental degradation and social inequality, it has become imperative for corporations to prioritise Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within their social governance policies.

The question then arises for business leaders: how can you invest in these programmes to generate a positive impact?

Integrating SDG targets into corporate strategies can position your business and its employees as responsible global citizens, foster stronger relationships with stakeholders, and drive long-term success.

Social governance refers to the organisation of society to meet everyday needs and tackle shared problems, encompassing policymaking, regulation, service delivery, and participation. Investment in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is essential for achieving sustainable social governance. These programmes address a broad range of issues, including health, education, gender equality, and climate action. They promote holistic and inclusive development that benefits both humanity and the planet – leading to positive outcomes for individuals and communities.

For example, improving access to affordable healthcare prevents health issues and reduces medical expenses for families, while advancing gender equality enables women to fully participate in society. In short, investing in SDG programmes is not only ethically sound but also economically sensible.

By aligning your business objectives and values with these global initiatives, you can significantly contribute to creating a more just and equitable world. Whether it’s promoting responsible consumption and production or diminishing inequality and poverty, businesses of every size play a pivotal role in making the SDGs a reality.

How to Create a Successful Social Governance Policy:

1. Identify the SDGs that align with your company’s values and purpose:

It’s critical to align your company’s ethos and mission with corresponding SDG goals. Doing so not only contributes to a brighter future but also enhances your brand’s reputation among customers, employees, and stakeholders. Whether the focus is on alleviating poverty, protecting the environment, or fostering equitable economic growth, such alignment provides clear direction for your corporate social responsibility initiatives and facilitates a lasting impact on society. Embracing SDGs that resonate with your company’s ambitions, unlocks new avenues for opportunities, partnerships, and business models that propel innovation and growth.

2. Set measurable targets for each SDG

Establishing and monitoring progress towards specific targets is vital to achieving sustainable development. While the goals outline a blueprint for a better world, businesses require concrete targets to ensure they are contributing effectively. It is important to remember that while the SDGs may seem daunting, incremental progress towards these objectives can make a substantial impact. With a clear set of targets, we can better ensure that every individual, community, and nation is on the path towards a more sustainable future.

3. Incorporate employee involvement and engagement

It is universally acknowledged that employee involvement and engagement are essential elements of organisational success. One effective way to incorporate this into your company policy is to actively seek employee feedback and include their opinions in the decision-making process. This ensures commitment and alignment with organisational objectives. This approach cultivates a sense of ownership and pride among staff.

4. Partner with organisations that support specific SDGs

Maximising profits while positively impacting people and the planet can be achieved through partnerships with NGOs or charities that support specific SDGs. Collaborating with an organisation dedicated to eradicating poverty or enhancing education allows your business to align with these goals and play a crucial role in creating a better world. These partnerships not only benefit society but also offer opportunities to tap into new markets, enhance brand reputation, and boost employee engagement.

In Conclusion

Investing in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is both a moral imperative and makes excellent business sense. Various ways to invest in SDG programmes range from funding innovators and startups addressing global challenges to partnering with established organisations focused on specific SDGs. Another way is through supply chain management and sustainable sourcing by choosing suppliers who adhere to sustainability standards. To conclude, investing in SDGs is more than just an ethical decision – it has the potential to yield dividends in multiple ways.

© Lawrence Power 2024

A 3-Minute “Power” Guide to the 17 Social Development Goals Working Towards Sustainable Business Operations

Is addressing social and environmental issues a top business priority for you?

Many consumers now demand that companies actively engage in social and environmental causes. This shift in behaviour has led to the rise of sustainable and socially responsible businesses. However, identifying the most impactful areas for social development can be challenging.

The United Nations’ (UN) social development framework offers guidance in this regard. It provides a structured approach to channelling our efforts towards a more equitable and sustainable world. Whitestone is an expert in offering advice on the adoption and implementation of these guidelines.

What Are The Social Development Goals (SDGs)?

The UN Social Development Goals consist of 17 objectives that aim to create a better world by 2030, irrespective of one’s background, circumstance, or location. Endorsed by all 191 member states, these goals are an essential tool for improving the lives of people across the globe – representing a globally agreed-upon framework for driving positive change in areas that impact everyone.

In short, we have a set of targets to bring the world’s attention to the most pressing global issues: poverty, inequality, and climate change.

These goals evolved from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of goals established in 2000 to address similar issues.

While the MDGs primarily targeted developing countries, the SDGs are universal and reflect a bigger, more integrated vision for our planet’s future. Since 2015, the SDGs have evolved to become more encompassing, increasingly focusing on peace, justice, and human rights.

Each SDG has specific targets and key performance indicators to measure progress, making it easier for governments, organisations, and individuals to monitor their contributions towards a more sustainable and equitable world. At their heart, these goals underscore the belief that through collaboration, commitment, and willingness to adapt, we can construct a better, more sustainable future.

Read more about The 17 Goals.

The Social & Environment Impact So Far…

While some countries have made remarkable strides, others struggle to make progress. One of the reasons for the uneven progress is that the SDGs are complex, and success requires cooperation across sectors and borders. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified these challenges, necessitating a reassessment of priorities and the development of new strategies to address global issues.

Countries like Denmark and Costa Rica are playing pivotal roles in the success of the SDGs. Denmark has become a leader in clean energy promotion, steadily reducing its reliance on fossil fuels, which sets an excellent example for other developed countries. Moreover, Costa Rica has advanced in environmental conversation and sustainability, achieving 100% renewable energy sources in just a few years! These nations serve as inspirations, proving impactful change is possible with political determination, strategic policymaking, and effective execution.

For example, Goal 3, which focuses on health and well-being, has enabled better maternal health services for women in Ghana. Another example is that a community in India can now irrigate their crops more effectively due to innovations in water management systems, in line with Goal 6, which focuses on clean water and sanitation.

What About Your Employer?

It is simple: companies must act now. Integrating the UN SDGs into business strategies is essential for addressing sustainability and climate change. This is where Whitestone’s expertise can be invaluable.

The UN goals call on businesses and organisations to contribute to a better world. Collaboration transcends political boundaries, as the shared goal of sustainable development benefits all. From the vast halls of the United Nations to remote villages, the power of collaborative efforts is evident in forming the SDGs and the actions taken by countries to achieve these goals.

Sustainable development is a continuous journey that must start now, requiring persistent effort to preserve our planet for present and future generations. We must reverse the history of exploitation, and this transformation begins with our collective actions, starting in our workplaces.

© Lawrence Power 2024

Flight Disruption – The Most Expensive IT Glitch in History?

A staggering £100m is the estimated cost to airlines for the flight disruption caused by a computer glitch at NAT. Unreliable flight data appears to have been the cause of the widespread disruption that has affected thousands of passengers. More than 1000 flights departing UK airports were cancelled over a three-day period. There has also been a knock-on effect on businesses and workplaces around the UK, with people being stranded abroad and unable to return to work after their holidays. This follows the recent disruption caused by wildfires in Greece.

Passengers are quite rightly asking for compensation for the delays caused by the IT glitch. Many people have suffered incredible inconvenience and stress because of the delays. Though, in this case, it does seem inappropriate and unfair for airlines to have to foot the entire bill, although they will obviously fulfil their duties to passengers. The IT failure is clearly something outside of their control and is an extraordinary circumstance. The airlines do owe a duty of care to passengers and have to provide accommodation and re-routing. They should not however have to bear the cost of compensation for delay under Article 7 of Regulation 261. This is because a failure of the air traffic control system is something the airlines have no control over whatsoever.

Passengers whose flights are cancelled should be given the choice of rerouting, a refund or return. Where flights are delayed, passengers have a right of assistance, including meals, refreshments, accommodation, and transfers. Airlines have to reimburse passengers for their reasonable costs, such as hotels and meals. The airlines, in our experience, are generally willing to reimburse passengers. Airlines do face claims from passengers for luxury hotels and expensive meals as well as consequential losses which cannot be justified and, in those circumstances, unfortunately such claims do sometimes end up in Court. We have a great deal of experience defending such claims.

Airlines are likely to have to pick up a massive bill through no fault of their own. It will also take a few days for flight schedules to return to normal. Other businesses will also face disruption, with employees unable to return to work on time after their holidays. It is fair to say that airlines are victims here too, and they can ill afford these additional costs following hard on the heels of the coronavirus pandemic. This is a situation where the government should step in and compensate airlines for the air traffic control failure.

© Peter Causton 2023

The World Is “Heading In The Wrong Direction”, Says Scientists

We at Whitestone are able to report that the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has reported that the atmospheric levels of all three greenhouse gases have reached record highs. In 2021, carbon dioxide concentrations were 415.7 parts per million, methane was 1908 parts per billion and nitrous oxide was 334.5 parts per billion. These are 149%, 262% and 124% of pre-industrial levels. These figures are set to be presented at the Cop27 UN climate conference in November and the WMO is in Sharm El-Sheik to attend the conference. [1] 

Concentrations of methane between 2020 and 2021 have had its biggest year-on-year jump within 40 years, puzzling scientists. Scientists countered the blame on fracking as industrial emissions did not show a similar sharp rise. Instead, the theory is that activities of microbes in wetlands, rice paddies and the guts of ruminants are the cause. The rising temperatures have caused the ideal conditions for microbial methane production. Professor Petteri Taalas, WMO secretary general, has stated there are “cost-effective strategies available to tackle methane emissions, especially from the fossil fuel sector, and we should implement these without delay,” he added, “However, methane has a relatively short lifetime of less than 10 years, and so its impact on climate is reversible.” [1] 

Professor Taalas did point out the urgency of slashing carbon dioxide emissions, calling it “the main driver of climate change and associated extreme weather”. The rise in carbon dioxide levels between 2020 and 2021 is larger than the annual growth rate over the past decade. [1] 

The Global Carbon Project initiative found that between 1990 and 2021, global carbon emissions rose by more than 60%. This statistic comes despite scientists first predicting the global warming phenomenon more than a century ago and UN climate conferences now taking place for some 30 years. [2] 

Carbon dioxide comprises of about 80% of the increase in greenhouse gas-caused global heating. Professor Taalas stated that the rise in carbon dioxide emissions has the ability to “affect climate for thousands of years through polar ice loss, ocean warming and sea level rise.” [1] 

So far, countries comprising 91% of the global GDP have pledged to reach net zero by 2050. We have seen most of these pledges being made in the past two years. The impact may seem limited for now but Henning Gloystein, director of energy, climate and resources in the Eurasia Group, argues that could soon change. “Net zero moved from being a rich country fad to a global trend in the second half of 2021,” Gloystein stated. “There is a lot of legitimate criticism that net zero isn’t enough to drive change – but even if it isn’t, I think we will soon begin to see economies change much more rapidly as they chart their decarbonisation pathways.” [2] 

With time “running out”, according to Professor Taalas, a transformation of “our industrial, energy and transport systems and whole way of life” is crucial – and notably, “economically affordable and technically possible.” [1] 

At Whitestone we will continue to build our Climate Change Team to deliver the legal infrastructure that compliance and regulatory departments can utilise to improve their own compliance with The Paris Agreement. 

©  Robert Pidgeon – Whitestone Chambers