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The choices made now will determine the future health of this planet. In the Arctic region, a particularly sensitive region to global warming, temperatures have been rising at least two times faster than the global average. In the past 6 years alone, more than 1 trillion tons of ice have been lost, rapidly threatening the viability of human life in coastal regions and the ability of marine life to survive. What action can the public take to slow down these changes, and to demand governments to take action?
Across the globe, litigation is an increasingly popular tactic employed by activists, lawyers, and the public to hold governments and corporations accountable to their climate change obligations. To date, there are approximately 1,500 climate change related cases filed worldwide. These cases are often complex, and involve creative arguments in constitutional, human rights, international, environmental, and tort law. In one recently successful case, Urgenda Foundation v. Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Supreme Court of the Netherlands found that the Netherlands must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% compared with 1990 levels by the end of 2020. The court found that “climate change threatens human rights” and that “in order to ensure adequate protection from the threat of those rights resulting from climate change, it should be possible to invoke those rights against individual states.”
This event brings together expert legal practitioners and activists to discuss two cases that affect the Arctic region and have reached the international spotlight: Juliana v. United States and People v. Arctic Oil. In Juliana v. US, Our Children’s Trust represents 21 youth from across the US, including Alaska. The group filed a complaint that through the US’s government’s affirmative actions that cause climate change, it has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources. In People v. Arctic Oil, Greenpeace and the Norwegian group Nature and Youth (Natur og Ungdom) have challenged the Norwegian government over their decision to open up areas of the Arctic Ocean for oil exploration. They are basing their legal claims on Section 112 of the Norwegian constitution which gives the right to a healthy environment, as well as the country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.
This distinguished panel is composed of: Thomas S. Axworthy (Canada), Chair of Public Policy at Massey College; Jutta Brunnée (Canada), University Professor of Law and Metcalf Chair in Environmental Law at the University of Toronto; Julia Olson (United States), Executive Director & Chief Legal Counsel at Our Children’s Trust; Dagny Ås Hovind (Norway), Associate at Glittertind Law; Gaute Eiterjord (Norway), Campaigner at Greenpeace Norway; Aslak Heika Hætta Bjørn (Norway), Advisor and Secretary at the Norwegian Sami Association; and Tora Fougner-Økland (Norway), Central Board Member of Young Friends of Earth Norway.
For questions about event logistics, please contact Emily Tsui, Chair of the Polar Law Group, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Introductory Remarks to the Massey Arctic Dialogue Series: Tom Axworthy, Massey College
Opening Remarks on Climate Change Litigation: Jutta Brunnée, University of Toronto
Presentation: Julia Olson, Our Children’s Trust
Presentation: Dagny Ås Hovind, Glittertind Law
Presentation: Gaute Eiterjord, Greenpeace Norway
Presentation: Aslak Heika Hætta Bjørn, Norwegian Sami Association
Moderated discussion with Jutta Brunnée, Julia Olson, Dagny Ås Hovind, and Gaute Eiterjord.
Call to Action: Tora Fougner-Økland, Young Friends of Earth Norway (5 minutes)
Thomas S. Axworthy (Canada) is Chair of Public Policy at Massey College, University of Toronto. He has had a distinguished career in government, academia, and philanthropy. He served as the Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and he was a key strategist on repatriation of the Constitution and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He was appointed Secretary-General of the InterAction Council, a think tank of former world leaders, in 2011. Established in 1983, the InterAction Council was the first group to apply the wisdom and network of former leaders to current global issues. In 1984, Dr. Axworthy went to Harvard University, teaching at the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. In 2003, he left Harvard and was appointed Chair of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University. He is currently a distinguished fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and Chair of Public Policy at Massey College, University of Toronto. From 2009 to 2015, Dr. Axworthy was president and CEO of The Gordon Foundation, an institution known for its partnership with Northern indigenous leaders in helping to create the Arctic Council.
Jutta Brunnée (Canada) is University Professor of Law and Metcalf Chair in Environmental Law at the University of Toronto. Her teaching and research interests are in the areas of Public International Law, International Environmental Law and International Legal Theory. She has published extensively in each of these areas. Her current research agenda explores the role of international legality and legal practices in mediating between stability and change in international law. Professor Brunnée is co-author of International Climate Change Law (OUP 2017), which was awarded the American Society of International Law’s 2018 Certificate of Merit “in a specialized area of international law” and was recently translated into Korean, and of Legitimacy and Legality in International Law: An Interactional Account (CUP 2010), which was awarded the American Society of International Law’s 2011 Certificate of Merit “for preeminent contribution to creative scholarship.” Professor Brunnée also is co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law (Oxford University Press, 2007). In 1998-99, she was the “Scholar-in-Residence” in the Legal Bureau of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, advising, inter alia, on matters under the Biodiversity and Climate Change Conventions. From 2006 to 2016, she served on the Board of Editors of the American Journal of International Law. She was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2013, and Associate of the Institut de Droit International in 2017. In 2019, she delivered a course on “Procedure and Substance in International Environmental Law” at The Hague Academy of International Law, published in the Academy’s Collected Courses / Recueil des Cours series (2020). In 2020, Professor Brunnée was appointed University Professor, the University of Toronto’s highest and most distinguished academic rank.
Julia Olson (United States) is Executive Director & Chief Legal Counsel at Our Children’s Trust. Julia graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, with a J.D. in 1997. For the first part of her 22-year career, Julia represented grassroots conservation groups working to protect the environment, organic agriculture, and human health. After becoming a mother, and realizing the greatest threat to her children and children everywhere was climate change, she focused her work on representing young people and elevating their voices on the issue that will most determine the quality of their lives and the well-being of all future generations. Julia founded Our Children’s Trust in 2010 to lead this strategic legal campaign on behalf of the world’s youth against governments everywhere. Julia leads Juliana v. the United States, the constitutional climate change case brought by 21 youth against the U.S. government for violating their Fifth Amendment rights to life, liberty, property, and public trust resources. Julia and OCT are recipients of the Rose-Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism. She received the Kerry Rydberg Award for Environmental Activism in 2017 and is a member of Rachel’s Network Circle of Advisors. To rejuvenate, Julia loves being high up in the mountains with her family and her dog or playing tunes on her ukulele with friends.
Dagny Ås Hovind (Norway) is an Associate at Glittertind Law and is co-counsel on the People v. Arctic Oil case. She works with contract law, general dispute resolution and litigation. Dagny has an MA of Law with a specialization in International Environmental Law and International Human Rights law. She has also previously completed a BA degree of International Relations with an emphasis on political science. During her studies, she worked at Jussbuss, a student run free legal advice clinic. In April 2018, Dagny submitted her MA thesis regarding requirements for the assessment of climatic effects from exported oil and gas pursuant to the Norwegian Constitution section § 112(2). She wrote the thesis with the independent Research Foundation the Fridtjof Nansen Institute.
Gaute Eiterjord (Norway) is a campaigner at Greenpeace Norway working with the climate lawsuit against the Norwegian state for allowing oil drilling in the Arctic. He has been involved with the case from the starte, previously as part of Young Friends of the Earth Norway where he was chair for two years.
Aslak Heika Hætta Bjørn (Norway) is a Sami artist and activist. He has a background from the Norwegian environmentalist movement and has been involved in Sami land rights and climate justice struggles for years. Bjørn work as an advisor and secretary for the Norwegian Sami Association.
Tora Fougner-Økland (Norway) is a biologist and environmental activist. She is currently a member of the Central Board of Young Friends of the Earth Norway and coordinator for its International committee.