Please tell us a little about who you are and what drives your commitment to the planet.
I’m Polish. I live in Warsaw, Poland. I’m a barrister by training and for over a decade, I’ve been engaged in strategic litigation, defending human rights in Poland and before the European courts.
Since 2021 I’ve been head of ClientEarth Foundation in Poland, which is part of the global ClientEarth Foundation family. This is a global charity which uses the power of law to change the world, to protect the environment and fight against climate change. We are a law firm with only one client and this client is our planet.
When you think about building a sustainable future, what makes you optimistic?
If I wasn’t optimistic I wouldn’t be able to love what I do, to be honest, and optimism is one of the features that makes me keep going definitely. Various things make me optimistic. First of all, I don’t work alone. I work in a team and I think that once I’m a bit fed up or I lose faith, and you can easily lose faith when it comes to politics, at least in Poland, but I see you know broader polarization trends among our nations and various countries, then I have another team member that pulls me up and says, okay, it will be good.
Second of all, apart from obvious downsides, COVID brought a bit of optimism because it showed that things can happen overnight globally and that humanity can work together for bipartisan good. If COVID was a crisis that helped to come up with the vaccination, for sure, global warming is also a global challenge and we need bipartisan action and global agreements as to the steps required. Global solidarity is close to Polish hearts because Solidarity was a famous historical movement back in the 80s, which led to the fall of communism. We should take this word out of the drawer and use it for the global warming fight.
What are some of the collaboration challenges you see when it comes to a global challenge like global warming?
We are not at the same starting point when it comes to countries so each country is driven by its inner politics. So I would say that the biggest challenges are the governments and the politicians, but they are at the same time, the biggest hope because we cannot work without systemic change introduced by politicians. I would say that the biggest challenge is modern politics, which builds on polarization and is very much focused on internal affairs and not the global or regional good and this is not what climate action needs. Climate action needs solidarity. It needs common action and common goals.
Sometimes governments are leading by example and changing patterns but generally, governments don’t want to do this. They want to win the elections and not tell people to change their behaviours, to fly less, buy less and be loyal to some nations which are less privileged than the developing worlds, such as in Africa. It’s pretty complex.
Modern politics is a challenge, but also societal polarization, which is built on emotions, on the public sphere and not on merit. However, another challenge is a lack of trust towards the institutions. Polish people are among the least trusting EU nations, we don’t believe anyone apart from our closest family. This puts the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) or other international organizations in a difficult position that try to open our eyes when it comes to climate change.
What do you think is the most significant legal challenge in working towards a more sustainable future?
I’m speaking from the European perspective but I think that countries generally speaking should adopt framework climate laws that set the neutrality goal and a roadmap towards achieving these neutrality goals.
The European Union has such goals but the biggest legal challenge is that not every country globally wants to adopt such laws because it’s binding. It’s binding for decades. Poland, for example, doesn’t have a legally binding date to phase out coal. There is some agreement with the miners’ unions, which indicates that the coal will be used in Poland till 2049, which obviously, is too late, considering what we know will happen each year with a warming planet.
We are lacking a legal framework which would be bipartisan on the one hand, and on the other hand, we’re lacking mechanisms for individual people to bring our governments to court and to make them accountable for climate politics. Some legal pleadings are being addressed in courts based on human rights. Recently there was a case heard before the European Tribunal for Human Rights in Strasbourg that was brought by Portuguese youth. It was based on the right to life, health, private life, and discrimination, because the things we are not doing now will be a burden upon the next generations, upon you guys. It will be your world that you will be living in, your children and therefore we have to take as much action as possible now to soften the consequences in the future.
What would be your advice to fellows for enlisting in this fight for a better future?
Go outside your bubble. Don’t work in silos. I know that social media puts us into those comfy places where we get a lot of likes and retweets or shares, but we want to address the problem among all of society and not just our friends or allies.
Think outside of the box and seek alliances that are out of the box and think of your work as a marathon, not a sprint. Think long term, but also take good care of yourself because we need you for years to come, not only for a short period so don’t let the burden be too heavy and take good rest and good care of yourselves. It’s a very good example with a plane, where you have to put the mask first up on yourself and then on your child. I think this is what the activists and beVisioneers should do.
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