Growing the next wave of climate justice lawyers

Hear from Ariane Wilkinson, Senior Lawyer at EJA.

At Environmental Justice Australia we believe that the law and the legal profession have a central role to play in responding to the climate crisis.

We support and encourage the development of more opportunities for lawyers to consider the latest climate science, and investigate the ways in which the law can, and should, respond to it.

Climate Justice Law Clinic

I recently took some time away from our busy legal practice to develop and run the inaugural Climate Justice Law Clinic at Monash University’s Faculty of Law.  On the invitation of Emeritus Professor Adrian Evans, one of the pioneers of clinical legal education in Australia, I ran the pilot clinic with a team of nine Monash law students.  The clinic was very ably supported by secondee senior litigator from Russell Kennedy, Malvina Hagedorn.

The Climate Justice Law Clinic is part of the Monash Law Clinics-Melbourne legal practice  – a community legal centre based at Monash Law Chambers at 555 Lonsdale Street in Melbourne.   The Monash Law Clinics-Melbourne is staffed by law students who are closely supervised by Monash University clinicians/supervising lawyers.

Law students participating in the pilot Climate Justice Law Clinic are taught to use their legal skills to address the urgent need for increased action on climate change mitigation.

Scientific evidence demonstrates that human-caused global warming is causing climate change damage at many sites around the world.  We have recently witnessed the death of half of all the corals on the Great Barrier Reef due to coral bleaching. Peer-reviewed scientific analysis has shown that that event would not have occurred without human-caused global warming. We are experiencing increased heat waves across the country, more frequent extreme fire events and 2018 was the driest year on record for some of our prime food growing areas. Climate science predicts that on our current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions, future generations will never see a healthy coral reef and will live in a less safe world.

There's still time to act

Experts in climate science, economics and climate mitigation pathways have said that there is still time to act to avoid the worst impacts that ongoing global warming will cause. However, this window of opportunity is closing rapidly.

Faced with this evidence, a growing number of citizens around the world are finding the courage to take action and utilise the pathways available to them to demand climate action that aligns with the science. Mary Robinson, the seventh President of Ireland has said, “One of the most powerful tools climate activists have is lawyers, or litigation.”

The Climate Justice Law Clinic is a unique opportunity for Monash Law students to work with experienced public-interest lawyers at the cutting edge of climate litigation and law reform. Students are challenged to think strategically and creatively to implement legal interventions that contribute to a safer climate future

Congratulations to EJA staff member and future lawyer Sasha Brady, who was one of the nine law students selected for the pilot clinic.  Sasha and her law student colleagues in the clinic undertook exciting and important public interest legal work, advancing the law to achieve climate justice goals.

EJA congratulates Monash University on this important initiative.  We look forward to seeing what the Climate Justice Law Clinic achieves.  We are also excited to see what participants of the Climate Justice Law Clinic will achieve as they graduate and enter the legal profession.