Human Rights and Climate Change Symposium 

  • Wed 9 - Fri 11 Jun 21


  • Online


  • Event type


  • Event organiser

    Human Rights Centre

  • Contact details

    Law and HRC Events and Communications Team

The School of Law and the Human Rights Centre at Essex University, along with our partner organisations, welcome you to this symposium which will focus on a range of subject areas that lie at the intersection between human rights and climate change.

Partner Organisations:

  • Environmental Law Institute (Washington DC)
  • University of Bayreuth (Germany)
  • University of East Anglia (UK)
  • Global Environmental Rights Institute, Dignity Rights Project (USA)
  • Widener University Delaware Law School (USA)

Wednesday 9 June 2021

Register for Wednesday's session via Eventbrite.

Introduction and Keynote Address

  • 2.00pm - 2.50pm UK BST
  • 9.00am - 09.50pm EST
  • 6.00am - 6.50am PST
  • 3.00pm - 3.50pm CEST

Introduction: Dr Stephen Turner, University of Essex

Keynote Speaker: Professor James R. May, Delaware Law School

Keynote Subject: Is there a human right to a healthy climate? 

Chair: Professor Karen Hulme, University of Essex

An Audience: Biodiversity, Climate Change and Human Rights

  • 3.35pm - 4.30pm UK BST
  • 10.35am - 11.30 am EST
  • 7.35am - 8.30am PST
  • 4.35pm - 5.30pm CEST

Introduction: Elizabeth Mrema, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity

Speaker: Professor John Knox, Wake Forest University.

Chair: Dr Stephen Turner, University of Essex

Panel One: Dignity and Climate Change

  • 5.00pm - 6.30pm UK BST
  • 12.00pm - 1.30pm EST
  • 9.00am - 10.30am PST
  • 6.00pm - 7.30pm CEST


Dr Catherine Dupré University of Exeter

Professor Marcus Düwell, Moral Philosopher

Dina Lupin Townsend, University of Witwatersrand

Chair: Professor Erin Daly, Delaware Law School

Human dignity is an inherent and inalienable quality that is increasingly being recognized at the international and regional levels and in the constitutional jurisprudence of countries around the world. Because environmental conditions affect people's ability to live with dignity and even their own sense of identity, dramatic changes in the natural environment can have profound impacts on all aspects of human dignity. This session explores the diverse impacts of climate change on human dignity under international, regional and national instruments.

    Thursday 10 June 2021

    Register for Thursday's sessions via Eventbrite.

    Panel Two: Bhutan

    • 10.00am - 11.30am UK BST
    • 5.00am - 6.30am EST
    • 2.00am - 3.30am PST
    • 3pm - 4.30 pm BTT Bhutan
    • 11.00am - 12.30am CEST

    Introduction: Dr Tara Van Ho, University of Essex


    Nawaraj Chhetri, UNDP, Bhutan

    Nima Dorji, JSW Law, Bhutan

    Dr Kent Schroeder, Bhutan Canada Foundation

    Chair: Dr Lovleen Bhullar, University of Birmingham

    Bhutan is in the unique position of being a country that is carbon negative. It is governed through a constitutional monarchy and the country has adopted the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH) instead of the concept of Gross Domestic Product as a basis upon which it makes developmental decisions. Bhutan’s national constitution also contains unique provisions relating to the protection of the environment. This session will consider Bhutan’s approach to the protection of the environment as it relates to climate change mitigation and adaptation. In particular, it will focus on the way that GNH guides decision-making at different levels of government and governance, the role that the constitution has in entrenching GNH, and also the way that these principles manifest themselves through climate change mitigation and adaptation projects within the country. The session will seek to highlight lessons that may have application in other countries.

    Panel Three: Climate Change Migration and Tribunals – From Migration to Litigation: Will Courts Save the Day?

    • 2.00pm - 3.30pm UK BST
    • 9.00 - 10.30am EST
    • 6.00am - 7.30am PST
    • 3.00pm - 4.30pm CEST


    Dr Summudu Attapatu, University of Wisconsin

    Scott Leckie, Displacement Solutions

    Dr Matthew Scott, Raoul Wallenberg Institute

    Camilla Schloss, Judge at the Administrative Court of Berlin


    Dr Avidan Kent, Associate Professor in International Law, University of East Anglia

    Dr Simon Behrman, Associate Professor, School of Law, Warwick University

    Climate-induced migration is one of the greatest challenges of our time. Rising sea levels, changing temperatures and extreme weather events are affecting communities’ life conditions, livelihoods, and prospect of survival in their current homes and environments. International law will have to provide answers to this emerging phenomenon. To date, the relevant international regulatory framework is patchy and certain gaps seem to exist. Notable gaps include issues such as statehood and finance. It is also not clear who is responsible for the damage caused to climate refugees (the issue of causality still acts as a significant barrier), and affected communities do not have the right to seek refuge in a different country, nor are they allowed to stay there legally, at least not on the basis simply that the effects of climate change have forced them from their homes.

    Recent years have seen communities and individuals affected by climate change, turning to courts, hoping that the international community’s impotence will be remedied through courts’ orders and judgments. In many of these cases, the topic of climate-induced migration was raised. This panel will focus on the link between climate litigation (primarily before human rights tribunals but not only) and climate migration.

    The speakers will discuss the role that human rights litigation can play, and is playing, in overcoming the legal gaps.

    Panel Four: Migration with Dignity: Perspectives on Climate Change and Human Mobility

    • 4.00pm - 5.30pm UK BST
    • 11.00am - 12.30pm EST
    • 8.00am - 9.30am PST
    • 5.00pm - 6.30pm CEST


    Carl Bruch, Environmental Law Institute

    Brian Kelly, International Organization for Migration

    Monica Iyer, OHCHR

    Professor Susan Martin,  Georgetown University

    Discussant: Professor Erin Daly, Delaware Law School

    Chair: Shanna McClain, NASA, Earth Sciences Division

    Migration occurs for myriad reasons and is rarely linear, and few options exist for ensuring that as people move, they can do so with freedom and purpose. Given growing climatic hazards driving internal and international migration, improved approaches are increasingly necessary for supporting the millions of people exposed to potential displacement. Through a combination of measures before, during, and after migration, ‘Migration with Dignity’ seeks to ensure that people who migrate maintain cultural integrity and access to education, employment, and healthcare without losing the skills and knowledge gained from the parent country.

    This session will highlight different dimensions of climate-related migration and focus on the opportunities available for addressing ‘Migration with Dignity’.

    Friday 11 June 2021

    Register for Friday's session via Eventbrite.

    Panel Five: Climate Change and Energy Provision in Developing Countries

    • 10.00am - 11.30am UK BST and WST
    • 5.00am - 6.30am EST
    • 2.00 am - 3.30 am PST
    • 11.00am - 12.30pm CEST

    Introduction: Dr Birsha Ohdedar, University of Essex


    Professor Philippe Cullet, International and Environmental Law, SOAS University of London

    Professor Raphael Heffron, Global Energy Law & Sustainability, University of Dundee

    Professor Yinka Omorogbe, Attorney General, Edo State, Nigeria

    Chair: Professor Thoko Kaime,  University of Bayreuth

    This session will focus on the legal and policy strategies for the delivery of sustainable energy in developing countries where access to modern supplies is limited. A particular challenge facing communities in developing countries is how to significantly ramp up the availability of modern energy sources whilst also ensuring the emergence of climate compliant energy systems. How can these two ambitions be reconciled by a principled energy policy? In discussing the solutions, the panellists will focus on practical solutions from energy law and policy as well as cognate areas of environmental resources stewardship such as water law. A key focus of the discussion is the imperatives related to SDG 7: the call to "ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

    Panel Six: Climate Change and The Rights of a Child

    • 2.00pm - 3.30pm UK BST
    • 9.00am - 10.30am EST
    • 6.00am - 7.30am PST
    • 3.00pm - 4.30pm CEST


    Briony Eales, Consultant, Asian Development Bank

    Julia Olson, Founder, Our Children’s Trust

    Ramin Pejan, International Programme (EarthJustice)

    Chair: Professor James R. May

    This panel will focus on recent legal developments in children’s quest to address the climate crisis. Children are acutely affected emotionally and physically by adverse environmental conditions, including climate change. Children are also rights-holders. 

    The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and several regional conventions, including the American Convention on Human Rights, recognize the rights of children.

    Many countries recognize the rights of children as well. The United Nations Human Rights Council has adopted a resolution specifically addressing the rights of children to a healthy environment. Agenda 21, the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN 2030 Agenda all recognize the rights of children and future generations to a clean environment

    This panel will address how children are adjudicating climate crisis, including internationally before the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights, and domestically in countries including the United States (to recognize a right to a stable climate), Netherlands (to curb carbon emissions 25 percent), Colombia (to have the government reduce deforestation to net zero), and in Pakistan (to have the right to protect the climate).

    This session would examine special issues in adjudicating climate cases on behalf of children and future generations.

    Panel Seven: New Perspectives: Rights of Nature

    • 4.00pm - 5.30pm UK BS
    • 11.00am - 12.30pm EST
    • 8.00am - 9.30am PST
    • 5.00pm - 6.30pm CEST


    Dr Iván Darío Vargas Roncancio, McGill University

    Dr Harriet Harden-Davies, University of Wollongong

    Dr Craig Kaufmann, University of Oregon

    Chair: Dr Emily Jones, University of Essex

    In the context of climate change and increasing environmental degradation, a growing number of actors are calling for the rights of nature (RON) to be recognised globally. However, while RON has been recognised in over 24 domestic contexts, they have been little considered within international law. This panel will explore what RON are and evaluate the different ways RON have been framed, analysing the usefulness of RON in seeking to protect the environment. The panel will analyse some of the theoretical underpinnings of RON, including indigenous perspectives, and explore the application of RON in international law, with a particular focus on applying RON to ocean governance.

    How to register

    To join this online workshop please register at Eventbrite.  Upon registration, you will be sent the instructions on how to join as well as the webinar IDs.

    Registrations are set up per day of the programme, not per panel session. Please book onto the relevant day(s) and use the zoom link for the day of the event. You will be sent full confirmation upon registration. 

    The webinar will be accessible via Zoom. Please make sure you have created a Zoom account in advance of joining the workshop, if you haven’t yet, please create an account here. If you are a University of Essex staff member or student please follow the instructions on how to create an account.

    For those who cannot join this online workshop, the videos of each panel will be posted afterwards on our social media channels or alternatively, you can watch our live streaming of these events over on our Youtube Channel: Essex Human Rights Centre.

    How to ask questions

    Please use the Q&A box to ask your questions, the chair of each session will take a selection of questions at the end of each panel.

    Further Information

    If you have any queries, please contact Dr Stephen Turner; or the Law Events and Communications Team at lawhrcevents@essex.ac.uk.

    Human Rights and Climate Change Symposium