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21 March 2024

Blue sky thinking on Climate Justice in Northern Ireland

Issues surrounding Climate Justice in Northern Ireland were examined this week at a unique event marking the launch of a new training programme aimed at members of the legal profession.

The new training programme has been launched by the Law Society of Northern Ireland in partnership with Public Interest Litigation Support (PILS) and aims to inspire, empower and support solicitors providing services to clients in the emerging areas of environmental law and climate justice.

Solicitors from across Northern Ireland attended the first event on the theme ‘Climate justice litigation’ at Law Society House in Belfast.

Those attending had an opportunity to hear from speakers including Katie de Kauwe, a Solicitor working for Friends of the Earth.

Katie provided an overview of climate justice, its link to human rights and the key international and EU legal instruments that are relevant for the purposes of advancing climate justice litigation.

Also speaking at the event was Marc Willers KC, who provided an overview of key jurisprudence relevant to climate litigation.

Mr Willers is a renowned KC, who specialises in environmental law and climate justice and has been involved in high profile litigation in the area of climate justice, including at the European Court level.

The training programme continues with session two in April 2024, with a focus on relevant pieces of legislation including the Climate Change Act (Northern Ireland) 2022 and the Aarhus Convention and corresponding regulations.

The last part of the programme which will be held in May 2024, will include a focus on local campaign groups, the issues they are working on as well as presentations on climate-related legal action that has taken place in Northern Ireland, including the use of Third-Party Interventions.

Commenting about the first event in the training programme, Dr Andrew Godden, Professional Development & Training Lead said –

“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Public Interest Litigation Support (PILS) on this critical issue which has implications for local solicitors and their clients. We are grateful to Katie De Kauwe from Friends of the Earth and Marc Willers KC for their invaluable contributions to making this first event such a success.”

The Director of PILS, Maria McCloskey said -

“Law is not the only answer to the climate crisis, but I believe it is a vital part of it. Reading the positive feedback from responses from attendees at yesterday's first CPD session gave the PILS team real encouragement.

There is a clear appetite among local lawyers for ways to get involved in the fight for climate justice. We are delighted to have created this CPD series for them - and look forward to welcoming even more solicitors and barristers to the sessions in April and May.”

Marc Willers KC said -

“My thanks to all at the Law Society of Northern Ireland and the PILS Project for inviting me to speak in Belfast at the first session of Climate Justice CPD Series. The next sessions look excellent, and I am sure they will inspire lawyers in Northern Ireland to take on climate justice work in the future.”

Commenting Katie de Kauwe from Friends of the Earth -

“As an environmental and social justice organisation, Friends of the Earth is committed to working alongside and supporting grassroots groups in their efforts to tackle the climate and nature crises.

We have supported communities resisting fossil fuel infrastructure across the UK. Whether that’s intervening to support an activist’s legal case against an oil development in Surrey or working with community groups to bring a court case against a major fossil fuel storage on the Antrim Coast , we believe that taking legal challenges can be a powerful way to hold governments and big business accountable for climate-harming decisions. And in the process, to shine a spotlight on critical issues".

Those wishing to attend the next two training sessions can do so by accessing the links below.

Session 2 - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/795155530597?aff=oddtdtcreator

Session 3 - https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/795159392147?aff=oddtdtcreator

A recording of the first session is now available to watch from

https://vimeo.com/925569723/6cd20dfef5?share=copy



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