The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Kierán Suckling, Executive Director, Center for Biological
Diversity, (520) 275-5960
Patrick Parenteau, Senior Counsel, Environmental and Natural
Resources Law Clinic,
College of Law, (802) 831-1305

$17 Million Climate Law Institute Launched


The Center for Biological Diversity today announced the launch of its San
Francisco-based Climate Law Institute and the dedication of $17 million
to fight global warming over the next five years.

"Global warming is the greatest challenge humanity has
ever faced. It is the defining issue of our time," said Kieran Suckling,
executive director of the Center. "To meet the challenge, the Center for
Biological Diversity has created the Climate Law Institute to extend the reach of
current environmental and human health laws to encompass global warming, pass
new climate legislation, and reinvent America's approach to protecting
endangered species and public lands."

The path-breaking institute will be directed by Kassie
Siegel, the current director of the Center's Climate, Air, and Energy
program. That program will be replaced by the multidisciplinary institute,
which will expand and direct climate change work across the Center's
biodiversity, oceans, public lands, urban wildlands, and international

A graduate of the University of California Berkeley, Boalt
Hall School of Law, Siegel authored the scientific petition, and argued the
legal case, that won Endangered Species Act protection for the polar bear due
to global warming in 2008. Along with institute advisory board member Deborah
Sivas, she won the California Lawyer of the Yearaward for successfully arguing a 2007 case that overturned
inadequate federal fuel-economy standards for failing to consider their
contribution to global warming. In 2006, Siegel brought a successful case under
the Global Change Research Act, forcing the Bush administration to release
suppressed studies documenting the ecological, economic, and human health
impacts of global warming.

"The problem of global warming cuts across all
environmental arenas," said Suckling. "It challenges the
environmental movement to rethink traditional ways of doing business. Today we
are fundamentally reorganizing the Center to integrate global warming into
everything we do and to launch an unprecedented assault on the causes of
climate change."

The primary goals of the Climate Law Institute are to:

  • Establish legal precedents requiring existing
    environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, National
    Environmental Protection Act, Clean Water Act, and the California Environmental
    Quality Act to be fully implemented to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, land
    management, and wildlife management;
  • Establish new state and federal environmental laws
    and policies to rein in global warming;
  • Ensure all new laws and policies are judged against
    the scientific standard of whether they will lead to a reduction in atmospheric
    CO2 from the current level of 385 ppm to below 350 ppm;
  • Prevent the construction of new coal-fired power
    plants and coal mines while quickly phasing out existing coal-fired power
  • Prevent the creation of an oil-shale or tar sands
    energy sector;
  • Reverse the deadly process of ocean acidification;
  • Prevent the loss of Arctic ice cover and likely
    runaway global warming that would ensue.

"The planet can not afford a single new coal-fired
power plant," said Suckling. "It can't even afford existing
coal plants. Working with partners in government and the environmental
movement, the Center for Biological Diversity will ensure America moves beyond
coal energy as rapidly as possible. Our lives depend on it."

"Climate change is a crisis we don't need and can't
afford. It's time to kick the fossil fuel addiction once and for all,"
said Climate Law Institute advisory board member Patrick Parenteau, Professor
of Law at the Vermont Law School. "Environmental protection in the U.S.
has always revolved around the creation and interpretation of law. The Climate
Law Institute is an exciting and necessary effort to fast-track the development
of climate change case law."

The Climate Law Institute's advisory board will ensure the institute integrates
the highest level of science, law, and policy into its work. The current board
is comprised of:

Luke Cole
Director, Center on Race, Poverty and the

Raul M. Grijalva
Congressman, 7th District
of Arizona

Sean B. Hecht
Lecturer in Law
Executive Director, Environmental Law Center,
UCLA School of Law

Cara Horowitz
Director, Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment,
UCLA School of Law

Pamela Martin
Assistant Professor, Department of the
Geophysical Sciences and the College, University of Chicago

Patrick A. Parenteau
Professor of Law
Senior Counsel, Environmental and Natural Resources Law
Vermont College of Law

Cymie Payne
Director, Global Commons Project
Associate Director, Center for Law, Energy and the
University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

Deborah A. Sivas
Professor of Law
Director, Stanford Environmental Law

Initial funding of $6.3 million for the Climate Law
Institute has been provided by the California Community Foundation, The Sandler
Foundation, The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, and others.

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

(520) 623-5252