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Student-led Climate Change Conference a Success

3Ls Jeni Barcelos, a Gates Scholar, and Jen Marlow
Three Degrees: The Law of Climate Change and Human Rights conference was a great success. This student-led conference brought together an international cross-section of corporate CEOs, World Bank consultants, legal scholars, physicians, atmospheric scientists, ethicists, international relief organizations, disaster relief agents, Native peoples, and political strategists for a robust debate on the legal duty to remedy the human rights implications of climate change.

Rising 3Ls Jeni Barcelos, a Gates Scholar, and Jen Marlow were the driving forces behind the conference.

"There is no more pressing issue than the human implications of climate change," says Barcelos. "The poorest of peoples in developing countries are the people most impacted by changes in climate. I came to law school to work on this issue and I am thrilled to help move this work forward by bringing together such amazing people from all over the world to create change."

The centerpiece of the conference, a Socratic (Fred Friendly-style) dialogue, was moderated by former PBS facilitator Kim Taylor-Thompson, who challenged panelists to debate legal and policy responses to a fictitious disaster scenario based on a three degrees Celsius rise in the earth’s temperature.

Keynote presenters were Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland (1990-1997) and more recently former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Henry Shue, a senior research fellow at Oxford University’s Centre for International Studies.

A number of post-conference activities will ensure that the UW community remains engaged in working on this issue. The Three Degrees organizers partnered with The Climate Project (TCP) to develop messaging specifically about the human impacts of climate change. In a 'climate-change-changes-everything' kind of world, TCP and Three Degrees organizers will help facilitate a top-down, bottom-up integration of the human rights discourse, linking legal and academic scholarship with grassroots education efforts. To this end, Three Degrees is working to develop a complete multimedia slide module for TCP presenters to use in explaining the human impacts of climate change to audiences around the world.

"The legal community is uniquely empowered to address the impacts of climate change," said Jenny Clad, Executive Director of TCP. "Three Degrees can advance the global dialogue on climate rights."

Other conference outcomes include ongoing scholarship on the intersection of climate change and human rights. The Washington Law Review has solicited articles from conference participants for an upcoming issue of the journal.

An exciting result of the conference will be a trip to Copenhagen for COP15, the 15th Conference of the Parties under the United Nations' Climate Change Convention, December 7-18, 2009. Barcelos and Marlow hope to have a voice at this international event and to encourage the insertion of human rights language in the agreements that come out of the conference.

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