A key group of the world's leading judges, lawyers and legal academics will meet on Thursday, 17 September, for the start of a special three-day symposium on climate change and adjudication, hosted by the Dickson Poon School of Law at King's College London.
The event is being supported by The UK Supreme Court, the UK government, the Journal of Environmental Law, the Asian Development Bank and the United Nations Environment Programme.
The London symposium, which will see the participation of over 25 eminent international jurists, legal practitioners and academics, has been timed ahead of the UN climate change conference in Paris this December, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to explore the extent to which courts are equipped to deal with the breadth and complexity of problems thrown up by climate change, and what changes might be needed to ensure that legal systems can keep pace with increasing demands to resolve environmental disputes.
The conference organisers explain, "Climate change is a disruptive problem, for our social, financial and legal systems, and will only become more so. The causes and impacts of climate change are many and they operate and are felt at every level, from the local to the international.
"The climate change treaty process seeks to address and help remedy some aspects of climate change, but it cannot be a comprehensive solution to the problem."
Participants will discuss how the unchartered territory of developing 'climate change law' is highlighting significant challenges for courts in adjudicating disputes. As Professor David Caron, executive dean of The Dickson Poon School of Law, has said, "legal disputes are inevitable and adjudicative processes will be important sites for testing and developing legal principles that have not yet adapted to the reality of climate change."
Dr Eloise Scotford, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Law at King's College London, said, "This symposium is timely not only due to the UNFCCC negotiations in Paris later this year, but also because a steady body of climate change cases have been stirring in courts around the world. The role of judges in these cases is difficult and the challenges to legal systems and the rule of law are fundamental and yet underexplored.'
The symposium includes two special events open to the public. Professor Philippe Sands QC will discuss with Professor James Crawford, Judge of the International Court of Justice, and Professor Lavanya Rajamani, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, the potential role of international judges and courts in addressing the legal issues relating to climate change in "Climate Change and the Rule of Law: Adjudicating the Future in International Law" at the UK Supreme Court on 17 September.
Although the event is now oversubscribed, it will be live-streamed online at https://www.supremecourt.uk/live/court-01.html and questions to the panel will be invited via Twitter using the hashtag #climatecourts.
The following evening (18 September), Lord Carnwath of the UK Supreme Court will discuss with international peers the experiences of domestic and specialist courts in dealing with climate change issues at Climate Change and the Rule of Law: Judicial Perspectives from Around the World at King's.
The conclusions and findings from the symposium's discussions will form a brief statement of the legal issues created by climate change for adjudication, due to be published in the final issue of the Journal of Environmental Law of 2015.
The conference organisers hope that this document will provide a framework in developing judicial responses to climate change.
As Professor Liz Fisher, general editor of the Journal of Environmental Law and Professor of Environmental Law at Oxford University, said, "the effectiveness of any international climate change treaty or legislative regime also depends on understanding how climate change challenges and disrupts our legal systems and how they respond. The framework we will produce will help our understanding in that process and is particularly timely in light of the Paris Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in December."