ELAW meeting in Oregon - EDO NSW

Strength in collaboration - world's environmental lawyers meet in Oregon

Last week, I was privileged to represent EDO NSW at the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) annual meeting in Eugene, Oregon, in the US. At the meeting I learnt from environmental and human rights lawyers and advocates from across the globe – Brazil, Colombia, Nicaragua, the US, Canada, Japan, Russia, Ukraine, Kenya and South Africa, to name only a few of the countries represented.

By Emily Long, EDO NSW Solicitor

8 March 2019

ELAW is a global alliance of lawyers, scientists and other advocates working to build a sustainable and just future. The ELAW US team provides technical and logistical support to lawyers and advocates working on the ground around the world.

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The global community meets in Eugene Oregon. Photo credit ELAW Facebook.

EDO NSW has been involved with ELAW since its inception in 1989. During the week in Oregon, it became apparent to me that EDO NSW is part of a global community of active, dedicated, culturally and linguistically diverse lawyers, scientists, communicators and volunteers. This community is working together, and in parallel, for a healthier planet, for sustainable livelihoods and to protect individuals and communities who are impacted by environmentally destructive activities. That there is strength in collaboration was visible in the lively discussions, in the search for synergies and exploration of pathways towards environmental justice.

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Emily with John Bonine (Law professor at Uni of Oregon, ELAW founder) and Alyssa Johl (Centre for Climate Integrity, Washington DC, USA).

At the gathering, lawyers shared victories from around the world. I shared our recent win in the Rocky Hill case, in which we acted for Groundswell Gloucester, which attracted great interest. I also learnt about a range of ongoing and completed cases brought by ELAW associates.  For example:

  • In Kenya, an application was brought before the National Environmental Tribunal challenging the lawfulness of an environmental approval for a 1050MW coal-fired power station in Lamu. This would be the first project of its kind in East Africa and is proposed to be located in an otherwise pristine environment. Issues raised in the appeal include the adequacy of the environmental impact assessment’s consideration of air quality, impacts on marine life, coal dust pollution and climate change. The hearing has been completed and the parties are awaiting a decision
  • USA: An application brought by a group of youth litigants has been filed against the federal government of the US. The plaintiffs argue that the government has taken affirmative action that causes climate change (eg. through subsidising the fossil fuel industry). In doing so, it has violated the constitutional rights of the youngest generation to life, liberty and property and has failed to protect essential public trust resources. The plaintiffs are seeking an order requiring the government to develop and implement a plan to reduce GHG emissions in line with best available science. In February 2019, the plaintiffs filed an urgent application for an interim order that would prevent the federal government from, essentially, approving any new fossil fuel projects pending determination of the substantive proceedings. A decision on the application for interim orders is expected soon.

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Eugene was blanketed in snow during the ELAW meeting.

EDO NSW is grateful for the support provided by ELAW to enable our attendance at this year’s meeting. We look forward to continuing our engagement with the ELAW community and participating in future annual meetings.