View the Symposium Videos
The Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs 2020 Symposium issue (Volume 25, Issue 1) is available to read without a paywall. A physical copy may also be purchased and the issue is also available through HeinOnline.
New lawsuits and recent rulings are connecting human rights to the climate crisis in increasingly urgent ways. The Urgenda ruling in the Netherlands, the complaint filed by Greta Thunberg and others under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Philippines' Commission on Human Rights' finding against fossil-fuel companies exemplify recent cases that have captured the attention of the public, advocates, and legal scholars.
On February 28, 2020, UCLA's Promise Institute for Human Rights, Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, and Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs hosted a symposium at UCLA School of Law on Human Rights and the Climate Crisis. At the daylong event, leading lawyers, scholars, and activists examined the potential of rights-based arguments to halt and seek remedy for environmental harms, with a focus on climate change.
Kumi Naidoo, former head of Greenpeace and Amnesty International, and Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, General Coordinator of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, delivered keynote speeches.
Welcome and Opening Keynote - Video
- Kumi Naidoo, former head of Greenpeace and Amnesty International
Panel One: Domestic Rights-Based litigation and Climate Change - Video
The last few years have seen a proliferation of imaginative legal strategies at the domestic level that have mobilized rights-based arguments to protect the environment and address climate change. Founding themselves on the human rights to life, health and privacy, as well as constitutional protections – in some cases of natural phenomena – and innovative intergenerational claims, these strategies have had unexpected success in some quarters. What principles are emerging from these various domestic cases, can they be translated across borders, and which offer the best potential to protect our environment and avert the climate crisis?
- Ann Carlson, Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law, UCLA School of Law
- Philip Gregory, Co-Lead Counsel in Juliana v. United States
- César Rodríguez-Garavito, Visiting Professor of Clinical Law, New York University School of Law
- Marco Simons, General Counsel, EarthRights International
Moderator: Cara Horowitz, Co-Executive Director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, UCLA School of Law
Panel Two: International Human Rights Mechanisms and Climate Change - Video
International human rights mechanisms are paying increasing attention to climate change and the environment. The UN Human Rights Council resolutions on human rights and climate change since 2008 and the creation of the position of UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment in 2012 are symptomatic of this at the global level; regional human rights bodies, notably in Europe and the Americas, have issued important recent judgments and recommendations in this area. What potential do international human rights mechanisms offer to prevent and mitigate climate change, and how can this best be realized?
- Soledad García Muñoz, Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)
- James Hopkins, Associate Clinical Professor of Law, James E. Rogers College of Law, Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program
- Erika Lennon, Senior Attorney, Climate & Energy Program, Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL)
Moderator: Tendayi Achiume, Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law, UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
Lunchtime Concurrent Workshops
Concurrent Workshop Panel 1-A: Domestic Rights-Based Litigation and Climate Change
Discussant: Daniel Jacobs, Clinical Associate Professor of Management, Loyola Marymount University
- Luisa Gómez, Constitutional Lawyer, Colombia, Environmental protection of the Amazon in post-conflict setting: an opportunity for peace in the era of climate change
- Natalie McCauley, Law Fellow, Public International Law and Policy Group, Water Rights and Day Zero: Perspectives on the Cape Town Water Crisis
- Melodie Meyer, JD Candidate, UCLA School of Law, Paguate-Jackpile Mine: Uranium Mining, Climate Crisis, and American Eco-Nationalism
Concurrent Workshop Panel 1-B: Domestic Rights-Based litigation and Climate Change
Discussant: Sean Hecht, Co-Executive Director, Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and Evan Frankel Professor of Policy and Practice and Co-Director, Environmental Law Clinic, UCLA School of Law
- Paolo Farah, Assistant Professor of Public Administration, West Virginia University, Urgenda vs. Juliana: Lessons for Future Climate Change Litigation Cases
- Elizabeth Wilson, Visiting Scholar, Rutgers Law School–Newark, Is there a Constitutional Right to a Climate Capable of Sustaining Human Life? The Youth Climate Movement and the Problem of Natural Rights
Concurrent Workshop Panel 2: International Human Rights Mechanisms and Climate Change
Discussant: Catherine Sweetser, Deputy Director, Promise Institute for Human Rights and Director, International Human Rights Clinic, UCLA School of Law
- Cinnamon Carlarne, Alumni Society Designated Professor of Law, Michael E. Moritz College of Law, Climate Change, Human Rights, & The Rule of Law: Untangling the Rights-Rule of Law Relationship in the Climate Change Context
- Fabrizio Vona, PhD Candidate, Sapienza University of Rome, Identifying Achilles' Heels: An Assessment of the Effectiveness of Human Rights Law in Climate Change Litigation
Concurrent Workshop Panel 3: International Criminal Law and Climate Change
Discussant: Máximo Langer, Professor of Law, Director of the UCLA Transnational Program on Criminal Justice and Faculty Director of the UCLA Criminal Justice Program, UCLA School of Law
- Erika McDonald, JD Candidate, University of Houston Law Center, Truth, Dignity, and the Power of Global Witness: A Criminal Law Approach to Resisting the Normalization of Climate Change Denial
- A. Camilo Ramírez Gutiérrez, Law Clerk, Revision Section of the JEP; Professor of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Universidad del Bosque and Alvaro Sebastian Saavedra Eslava, Lawyer at Colombian Commission of Jurist, Protection of the Natural environment under IHL and ICL: The case of the JEP [Special Jurisdiction for Peace] in Colombia
Poetry Reading - Video
Karen McCarthy Woolf, Fulbright All Disciplines Scholar and Promise Institute Poet-in-Residence
Panel Three: International Criminal Law and Climate Change - Video
Faced with the climate crisis, the movement to create a new international crime of environmental destruction is gaining voice. What would such a crime look like? Is it necessary, or can existing international criminal law be mobilized, for example by classifying massive environmental damage as a crime against humanity? What are the legal and political obstacles to either approach? What opportunities do they offer and how realistic is it to look to international criminal law to prevent and mitigate climate change?
- Jelena Aparac, Lecturer and Consultant, member of the UN Working Group on the use of mercenaries
- Nema Milaninia, former Trial Attorney, Office of the Prosecutor, International Criminal Court
- Richard Rogers, Founding Partner, Global Diligence LLP
Moderator: Kate Mackintosh, Executive Director of the Promise Institute for Human Rights, UCLA School of Law
Closing Keynote - Video
- Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, General Coordinator, Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, environmental and human rights activist