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Spring 2025 Seminar

Climate Change and Human Rights: Legal Innovations and Social Entrepreneurship in Action

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: No Exam

This seminar will operate as a lab and explore entrepreneurial efforts to bridge climate change and human rights by examining live issues and pressing problems in the field. In recent years, both entrepreneurial human rights advocates and environmentalists have pushed the boundaries of traditional legal and policy doctrines to address the climate crisis and its impact on human society. The seminar will analyze how such social entrepreneurs are working at the intersection of climate change and human rights and utilizing innovative strategies, frameworks, and litigation to move the needle.

After examining the legal underpinnings that connect climate change and human rights, we will delve into a range of past, present, and emerging strategies that have been used to tackle climate mitigation, climate adaptation, and climate justice. We will consider, for example, innovative litigation efforts and cases of first impression aiming to extend human rights jurisprudence to both government and corporate actors in the climate space. The seminar will examine how practitioners have wrestled with and attempted to develop novel legal theories related to climate defenders, the rights of nature, future generations, standing, intersectionality, causation, jurisdiction, and allocation of responsibility. Beyond the litigation context, the seminar will also utilize design-thinking approaches to experiment with possible legal and policy frameworks for emerging problems such as the increasing frequency of deadly heatwaves and the corresponding need to recognize the human right to cooling. The seminar will also evaluate community-centric approaches to climate change and human rights, and efforts to elevate community power and incorporate community perspectives into current litigation efforts and legal frameworks.

Throughout the seminar, students will work collaboratively in teams to explore such live problems in particular contexts, while also reflecting on the implications of the issues for the field of climate change and human rights more generally.

A limited number of seats in the seminar are reserved for clinical students enrolled in the Human Rights Entrepreneurs Clinic, which gives students the opportunity to work in a collaborative atmosphere to support entrepreneurs in start-ups as well as innovators within existing organizations as they translate their ideas for change into reality. The Clinic operates as a lab, and students have the opportunity to support partners as they develop and incubate ideas to pursue innovative strategic approaches that advance human rights. In particular, the Clinic focuses on frontier litigation related to climate justice and corporate accountability as well as community-centric approaches to business and human rights. The Clinic also supports student entrepreneurs whose work relates to human rights.