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Climate justice through the courts: Will courts prevent (and redress) human rights harm from climate change?

Monday 28 February 2022
Oude Sterrewacht
Sterrenwachtlaan 11
2311 GP Leiden
C 104


Climate change is increasingly understood as posing a serious threat to the lives and safety of populations everywhere. Courtrooms have emerged as an important venue for raising awareness of this threat and for seeking to hold governments or corporations accountable for their failures to address it. Human rights law has been increasingly invoked in such lawsuits, with more than a hundred rights-based climate cases initiated in domestic courts around the world and before international and regional courts and treaty bodies. These include the landmark Urgenda case, in which the Dutch government was ordered to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 percent against 1990 levels by 2020, and the Milieudefensie case against Royal Dutch Shell, culminating in an emissions reduction order on the company (now under appeal). It remains unclear, however, to what extent and how climate litigation engenders legal, social, and political change.

In this lecture of the seminar series, Conflict Resolution Seminars @Leiden, Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh will discuss new research aimed at understanding how lawyers, activists, and judges have constructed, conveyed, adopted, or translated human rights norms in the context of climate litigation unfolding at different levels. Further, the lecture will discuss the effectiveness and potential drawbacks of this type of litigation as a strategy for addressing climate change.

The session will be delivered in a hybrid format (online and in-person, where feasible). If you plan to attend in person, please confirm your attendance by emailing Asmaa Khadim at a.n.khadim@law.leidenuniv.nl

Presenter Bio

Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh is an Assistant Professor of Public International Law at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies at Leiden University. She is also an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in Environmental Law at the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development at the University of the South Pacific. In 2018 she received an NWO Veni-grant for her project ‘Climate Justice through the Courts’ (2019-2023), which uses socio-legal research to investigate the effectiveness and potential drawbacks of rights-based climate litigation. Her research builds on more than fifteen years of involvement in legal processes related to sustainable development and human rights. Alongside her academic work, she currently leads the global team assisting the Republic of Vanuatu in its pursuit of an advisory opinion on climate change from the International Court of Justice (with Julian Aguon at Blue Ocean Law). She also serves as the Deputy Regional Director for Europe of the Global Network on Human Rights and the Environment.

About Conflict Resolution @Leiden

Institutions for Conflict Resolution / Conflictoplossende Instituties (COI) is one of the two legal science themes of the Dutch National Sector Plan for Law at Leiden Law School, the other being Empirical Legal Studies. As part of its activities, the COI research group organises a monthly seminar series, Conflict Resolution Seminars @Leiden, for researchers interested in institutions for conflict resolution. The research seminars are intended to explore judicial approaches to resolving difficult and contentious societal problems, ranging from climate protection to race relations. Judicial decision-making at the local, national and supranational levels, as well as alternative dispute resolution approaches, are considered. 

Researchers across Leiden University are invited to present their work, and we welcome interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research on any topic that aligns with the theme of the seminar series. These seminars are intended to bring together academics from across the university to share ideas and collaborate on mechanisms and strategies that best promote effective and inclusive conflict resolution. If you are interested in becoming a presenter, please contact Asmaa Khadim at a.n.khadim@law.leidenuniv.nl

Click here to join the online session

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