Climate Justice: Municipal, Tribal, and Legal Action

    Climate Justice: Municipal, Tribal, and Legal Action

    Climate Justice: Municipal, Tribal, and Legal Action

    Climate change is a matter of environmental justice and human rights: those groups least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions are not only the most significantly impacted, but those who have the fewest resources to adapt. As temperatures and seas rise, communities here in the United States are faced with health, financial, and environmental burdens as well as social and cultural disruptions-particularly people of color, low-income, and Indigenous communities. From cities to tribes to NGOs, local actors are stepping up to ensure resiliency plans include the needs and participation of those most vulnerable to the devastating impacts of climate change.

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    Municipal action: City of Cleveland

    Immediately after the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, local governments, indigenous communities, and concerned citizens have stepped up to take action. Partnerships such as the Climate Mayors, the U.S. Climate Alliance, and 100 Resilient Cities brings together local governments. Matt Gray, Chief of Sustainability for the City of Cleveland, will address how the city has taken steps to address climate change's effects on city residents, particularly in terms of social and racial equity.

    Tribal action: Pacific Northwest Tribal Climate Change Project, University of Oregon

    America's indigenous peoples are the United States' first climate change refugees. From Alaska Native villages and the tribes of the Pacific Northwest, to the Seminole and Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw on the Gulf Coast, an increasing number of tribes face storm surges and crumbling shorelines. For other tribes, drought and extreme weather events present the greatest threat to resources critically important to their economic and cultural well-being. As a marginalized population, indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to their community location and resource-based cultures. But federal and state response has been limited: there is no designated lead agency to prioritize needs, coordinate efforts, and leverage relocation funding; there is no coherent relocation strategy; and there is no single source of dedicated funding. Yet tribal governments are marshalling their strengths and resources as sovereign powers, breaking new ground with their own climate adaptation and mitigation plans. We will hear from panelist Kathy Lynn about actions American Indian and Alaska Native tribes are taking to prepare for and combat climate change impacts, and share resources on tribal adaptation and mitigation planning, managing off-reservation resources, and tribal consultation in the context of climate change.

    Legal action: Juliana

    Activists, governments, and concerned citizens are now taking the fight against climate change, bringing claims against polluters and national governments over its effects. The United States is home to more climate suits than any other nation. These organizations and individuals have utilized federal statutory claims incorporating laws such as the Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, and NEPA. They have also brought constitutional claims under the Commerce Clause, and the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. In 2015, 21 young Americans sued the US government over climate change in Juliana v. US, alleging that the government has violated "the youngest generation's constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property" in adopting policies that promote the use of fossil fuels despite knowledge of the impact of carbon dioxide emissions on global warming. Philip Gregory, an attorney affiliated with Our Children's Trust, will speak to the case and its continuing success of the constitutional challenge in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon.

    Recorded on January 23, 2019

    Jeremy Orr, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Environmental Justice Committee, Detroit, MI

    Matt Gray, Chief of Sustainability, City of Cleveland, Cleveland, OH
    Philip Gregory, Gregory Law Group, Redwood City, CA
    Kathy Lynn, Tribal Climate Change Project Coordinator, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

    The content of this program does not meet requirements for continuing legal education (CLE) accreditation. You will not receive CLE credit for viewing or listening.

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    Jeremy Franklin Orr


    Native American Resources, Climate Change, Sustainable Development, and Ecosystems, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, Native American Concerns, Environmental Justice


    Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources

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    Publication Date

    1/23/2019 12:00:00 AM

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