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A new report published by the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide concludes that courts in several countries are poised to pursue climate justice.

Holding Corporations Accountable for Damaging the Climate“Some people are profiting enormously from damaging the climate, while others will bear the costs of that climate damage,” says Jennifer Gleason, ELAW Staff Attorney.

Jen led a research team of ELAW partners from the United States, India, Ecuador, Brazil, Mexico, and Kenya to identify jurisdictions around the world where strong cases could be filed to hold corporations accountable for damaging the climate.

The report states:

“The damage that humans are doing to the global climate may be one of the gravest injustices of all time…. Many who will suffer the most are contributing almost nothing to the damage. The fundamental purpose of legal systems and courts is to prevent and remedy injustices, and we appreciate this opportunity to mobilize courts to prevent and remedy this grave injustice…

“Courts in several countries . . . are poised to bring justice to victims of climate damages. . . . Requiring corporations causing climate impacts to compensate damaged communities would help remedy the injustice of climate change, internalize costs of greenhouse gas emissions, make corporations tremble at the prospect of further damage awards, and thus help prevent further harm.”

The report, available in English and Spanish, was made possible through generous support from the Wallace Global Fund:

Holding Corporations Accountable for Damaging the Climate

Responsabilizando a las Corporaciones por Danar el Clima

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

Last weekend, Live Mint & Wall Street Journal celebrated the work of three ELAW partners — Norma and Claude Alvares at the Goa Foundation and Ritwick Dutta at the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE). This dynamic trio and other inspired advocates in India co-hosted our 2012 ELAW Annual Meeting.

Claude and Norma Alvares

PHOTO: Live Mint & Wall Street Journal

Here are some excerpts:

Norma Alvares & Claude Alvares: The power of two
This duo is one of the foremost reasons Goa retains its charm and a good measure of its environmental heritage.

“The serenity in this partnership — quite evident to anyone who visits the couple’s relaxed, hospitable home in the north Goa village of Parra — is the cornerstone of an extraordinary record of ferocious battles and activism that is one of the foremost reasons India’s smallest state still retains considerable charm and a good measure of its environmental heritage.”



Ritwick Dutta

PHOTO: Live Mint & Wall Street Journal

Ritwick Dutta: The case for our forests
The 40-year-old lawyer has taken the battle for the environment to the courtroom with more than 350 cases.

“Dutta dismisses the argument that green laws and environmental activism are hurdles to growth. ‘That’s a myth that is being perpetuated. Virtually all projects –over 95% — are cleared; every day over 330 acres of forest land is diverted in India,’ he says. The cases that come for legal challenge are less than 1% of those approved… What drives Dutta is his determination to protect the last remaining natural wild habitats, and what he calls ‘environmental democracy, a process to arm communities with knowledge, and to give them a voice in projects which impact their lives and livelihood.'”

We are inspired by the work of Norma, Claude, and Ritwick, and hope you are too!

All the best,

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

ELAW partner Alejandra Serrano sent thrilling news this weekend!

 Holbox Island
 Holbox Island

The proposed “Ensenada” development, which threatened the stunning landscape and rich fisheries of Quintana Roo’s Holbox Island, has been shelved.

Alejandra and her colleagues at the Mexican Center for Environmental Law have worked since 2012 to protect islanders from this out-sized tourism scheme.

Alejandra writes:

“The development would have devastated the Yum Balam Protected Area and local fisheries.  The Environmental Impact Assessment was deficient and the company withdrew.  Many thanks to the ELAW team for your technical support, friendship, and support to carry on.”

Community members were right to be concerned.  The developer’s plans included hotels, villas, condominiums, offices, a shopping plaza, roads, and a helicopter pad, all located in the Protected Area.  The community of under 2,000 would have been dwarfed by new housing for thousands of visitors.  The developers also proposed cutting channels through pristine mangroves to increase waterfront acreage.

Read more here:

Associated Press:
Developers withdraw plan for resort on Mexico’s Holbox island off Yucatan peninsula

ELAW Reports:
Protecting the Yucatan, by ELAW Associate Director Lori Maddox (see pp.  4-5)

ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel visits CEMDA

Alejandra Serrano, ELAW Fellowship

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director & Fellows Program Coordinator


Download the latest issue of the ELAW Advocate.

ELAW Spring 2014.indd

“I never intended to become a lawyer,” Fernando told me.

ELAW Associate Director Lori Maddox with Fernando Ochoa, and pelicans, in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, June 2014.

ELAW Associate Director Lori Maddox with Fernando Ochoa, and pelicans, in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, June 2014.

As a child, Fernando read a marine mammal encyclopedia and dreamed of becoming a marine biologist. His father persuaded him that law was a practical tool and besides, Mexico City was far from the ocean.

After a few years at a private firm, Fernando secured a job with ProNatura, providing legal advice about conservation instruments for private lands. One day, Fernando’s boss mentioned plans for a marina in Bahia de los Angeles which would have spelled death for the whale shark population in that area. ProNatura does excellent work in private lands conservation, but fighting this marina was not a part of their mission.

With ProNatura’s support and encouragement, Fernando founded Environmental Defense Northwest, or DAN by its Spanish acronym, to take on the case. Only after the battle began did they learn that the marina was step one of the enormous Escalera Nautica project — a series of marinas and ports that would have industrialized the Baja California peninsula and radically altered this world-class landscape, devastating the marine mammals that migrate up and down this coast.

DAN stopped the marina, and the phone has not stopped ringing since. DAN will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year, and now has a staff of eight and a full docket.

In a globalized world, the Baja Peninsula is ideally situated for developments of all kinds, and the pressure is relentless. Among their projects, DAN is an integral part of the multi-faceted, coordinated campaign to preserve Cabo Pulmo, a biological wonderland off Baja California Sur’s southeast tip. Cabo Pulmo faces recurring threats from big resort developers.

“I’m glad I have these legal tools, and that we’re winning,” says Fernando, who lingers over a used copy of the marine mammal encyclopedia which he recently found for home.

When he’s not saving marine mammals and their habitat, Fernando is a skilled photographer, and loves teaching his 3-year-old, Constanza, world capitals and counting to 10 in different languages.

Fernando is a valued member of the worldwide ELAW network.
We applaud his good work!

Lori Maddox
Associate Director

China faces enormous environmental challenges. Ashley White, contract attorney, is helping the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) reach out to new partners in China to build the worldwide corps of grassroots advocates.

cn.2014. Ashley White & Caidan CaoAshley traveled to Qingdao earlier this month to receive her Master’s degree in Environmental & Natural Resources Protection Law from Ocean University of China. She also traveled to Beijing where she met with Caidan Cao, Legal Coordinator for Greenpeace East Asia.

“Caidan is a passionate environmental advocate for energy, climate change, and marine protection, both within China and internationally,” says Ashley.

Caidan is challenging the harmful impacts of coal in China and strengthening ocean and coastal environmental protection in the East Asia region. Caidan spoke with Ashley about her work helping pollution victims and provided insight into recent reforms to China’s environmental laws.

ELAW is seeking support to bring Caidan to Eugene for an ELAW Fellowship, to build her advocacy skills and forge ties with her colleagues around the world.

Please contact me if you are interested in helping Caidan!


Maggie Keenan
Communications Director & Fellows Program Coordinator

Mandakhaitsetsen “Manda” Urantulkhuur arrived from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, last week for a 10-week ELAW Fellowship. This is her first visit to the U.S.

Manda from MongoliaManda began classes yesterday at the University of Oregon’s American English Institute and will work closely with ELAW staff to advance the economic, social, and cultural rights of Mongolia’s disenfranchised.

Manda is Coordinator of the Community Based Development Program at the Centre for Human Rights and Development. Her program has empowered women’s groups in Ulaanbaatar and Darkhan, and the provinces of Uvurkhangai, Dornod, and Khentii.

Manda has a bachelor’s degree in education from the Pedagogical University of Saint Petersburg, Russia, and a masters degree in Inter-Asia NGO Studies from Sungkonghoe University, South Korea.

Many thanks to Michael and SueAnn Rangeloff for being Manda’s host family for her first week in Eugene.

We will keep you posted on Manda’s work.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director & Fellows Program Coordinator

We were surprised and thrilled Saturday night to learn that we were receiving the 2014 David Brower Lifetime Achievement Award. The students of Land Air Water, the organizers of the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC), awarded us this high honor.

We were so surprised, in fact, that we found ourselves speechless.  Now, we want to thank the student organizers and the following people for inspiring us over the past 20 years:

David Brower was a guiding light for all of us. To be given an award with his name is the ultimate honor.

Public interest lawyers from 10 countries founded ELAW in 1989.  We are indebted to the founding U.S. directors, John Bonine, Mike Axline, and Mary O’Brien for trusting us with their vision.

Our work at ELAW is a team effort.  The most senior staff won this award, but our success would not be possible without the whole team, which includes:  Jackie Chimelewski, Kalindi Devi-Dasi, Glenn Gillis, Maggie Keenan, Michele Kuhnle,  Pedro Leon, Liz Mitchell, David Pugh, Heidi Weiskel, and Ashley White.

ELAW partners in 70 countries are standing up for the rights of communities. We are lucky and honored to be supporting their work.

We are humbled by this recognition.

Many thanks!

Bern Johnson, Executive Director
Lori Maddox, Associate Director
Mark Chernaik, Staff Scientist
Meche Lu, Staff Scientist
Jen Gleason, Staff Attorney

Natural Resource Concession Contract GuideWhen governments around the world sell the rights to exploit minerals, timber, oil, and gas, they enter into long-term contracts with the companies buying these resources.  In the past, these contracts have typically been kept secret.

ELAW partners around the world are playing a big role in changing that practice.  Through their efforts, the veil of secrecy surrounding natural resource contracts is being lifted and citizens are finally gaining the opportunity to understand how their resources are being managed, and at what cost.

ELAW is thrilled to be releasing a new publication, “Natural Resource Contracts: A Practical Guide,” which will help grassroots advocates around the world understand these agreements and advocate for stronger environmental, social, and fiscal provisions.

ELAW Staff Attorney, Liz Mitchell, wrote the guide.  She observes: “As more governments respond to calls for transparency and release natural resource contracts to the public, ELAW saw the need for a plain language guide that helps demystify these complex agreements.  This guide compiles lessons we’ve learned from reviewing dozens of natural resource contracts over the past decade.”

The guide is available on ELAW’s website.  Many thanks to the Philip Stoddard and Adele Smith Brown Foundation for making this much-needed publication possible.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director &
Fellows Program Coordinator

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