The Climate Crisis, Global Land Use, and Human Rights

Date: September 27, 2019, 9:00am – 5:00pm
Location: Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice, 320 East 43rd Street, New York City

The conference agenda is available here.

The outcomes document is available here.

The video recording of the event is available here.

On September 27th, the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI), the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Landesa, the New York City Bar Association International Environmental Law Committee, and Wake Forest Law School hosted a day-long conference on the intersection between land use, the climate crisis and clean energy transition, and human rights.

The climate crisis threatens to dramatically alter people’s relationships with the land on which they rely. Meanwhile, many climate solutions are themselves land-intensive, including solar and wind energy, carbon dioxide removal, and finding places for people displaced by climate change to live and grow food, thus potentially increasing competition for land.

This conference analyzed the critical role that land plays in achieving climate solutions, the degree to which climate change may reshape regional abilities to support sustainable ecosystems, and the ways in which these land and climate interactions might affect land rights, human rights, and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

In particular, the conference focused on:

  • The necessity of land for many climate solutions, such as renewable energy, metals for energy efficient solutions, and carbon storage and sequestration;
  • The increasing tension between insecure land tenure for communities reliant on land and climate solutions tied to land, as well as the potential for climate solutions to increase socially inclusive land uses;
  • The consequences of climate-driven land scarcity and climate-solution land demands; and
  • Sustainable and equitable solutions to some of the most challenging land-centric climate change issues, such as relocation of displaced persons and activities

Watch the recorded videos:

Introduction and KeynoteThe Land-Climate Nexus In his keynote, Michael Gerrard, Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School, provides an overview of the current land-climate conundrum––an increasing demand for land admits a decreasing supply due to both climate change and land-intensive climate change coping methods-–and its implications for those without clear rights to their land.

Panel 1Land Tenure and Land Users: Understanding the People at the Center of Land The first panel focuses on how climate change interacts with tenure insecurity and explores strategies and solutions to help protect community land rights while potentially advancing necessary climate solutions.

Panel 2Carbon Sequestration, Biofuels, Renewable Energy and Land Use This panel explores the impacts of climate action––the responses, adaptions, and mitigations to climate change––on land, land use, land rights, land tenure and human rights.

Panel 3: Displacement and Disruption of Land-Based Systems by Climate Change This panel discusses how climate change has already, and will likely in the future, displaced communities and disrupted how people use land, and aims to better understand how we can better prepare for those outcomes.

Panel 4 and Closing Remarks: The Big Picture: Solutions and Next Steps This panel of lawyers, climate scientists, and indigenous representatives discuss possible solutions to deal with the climate crisis and its land implications while moving towards carbon neutral emissions and doing so in a rights-responsible way.

Panelists included:

Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, Associate Counsel, LatinoJustice (Puerto Rico Legal Defense Fund)

Karol Boudreaux, Chief Program Officer, Landesa

Michael Burger, Executive Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

Kaitlin Cordes, Head of Land and Agriculture, Lead on Human Rights, Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment

Alex DeSherbinin, Associate Director, Science Applications, Center for International Earth Science Information Network (Columbia University)

Ama Francis, Climate Law Fellow, Sabin Center

Michael Gerrard, Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice, Columbia Law School; Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, Columbia Law School

Dina Ionesco, Head of the Migration, Environment and Climate Change (MECC) Division at the UN Migration Agency (IOM)

Taiko Lemayian, Executive Director, Kenya Community Based Tourism Network (KECOBAT)

Mark Lutes, Senior Advisor, Global Climate Policy, World Wildlife Fund

Jane Meriwas, Founder, Samburu Women’s Trust; UN Fellow

Barron Orr, Lead Scientist, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification; Professor and Geospatial Extension Specialist, University of Arizona

Satyendra Prasad, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations

Katharina Rall, Researcher, Human Rights and Environment Divison, Human Rights Watch

César Rodríguez-Garavito, Visiting Professor of Clinical Law, New York University School of Law

Rukka Sombolinggi, Secretary General, Indigenous Peoples Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN)

Sam Szoke-Burke, Legal Researcher, Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment

Gerald Torres, Professor of Law, Cornell Law School

Janene Yazzie, Sustainable Development Program Coordinator, International Indian Treaty Council; Co-Convenor, Indigenous Peoples Major Group for Sustainable Development (IPMG)