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University of Iowa News Release


April 2, 2007

Weston Heads Project Examining Human Rights And Climate Change

The University of Iowa's Center for Human Rights (UICHR), in cooperation with the UI's Center for Global and Environmental Research, will join the Vermont Law School in a new initiative to examine the human rights and other legal rights implicated by global warming and climate change.

"The Climate Legacy Initiative (CLI) will clarify and advocate the legal rights, including human rights, of present and future generations relative to the harms likely to result from global warming both in the United States and internationally," said Burns H. Weston, interim director of the UICHR, Bessie Dutton Murray distinguished professor of law emeritus at the University of Iowa and visiting distinguished professor of International Law and Policy at the Vermont Law School (VLS). "Particular attention will be given to the rights of future generations in this regard and to the complementary duties of present generations to them. We take as a given that climate change exists already in threatening ways and that lawyers have a vital role to play in minimizing its harms."

Weston, an award-winning human rights teacher and one of the world's leading human rights experts, will also serve as the director and senior researcher for the project. The CLI is being coordinated by the Vermont Law School, which has the nation's leading environmental law programs. VLS professor Tracy Bach will serve as associate director and senior research fellow of the initiative. At the University of Iowa, environmental engineering professor Jerald L. Schnoor and law professor Jonathan C. Carlson will work closely with Weston.

"The CLI will develop and promote legal doctrines, principles, and rules appropriate for recognition by courts and legislatures to benefit the environmental and other legal rights of present and future generations, including their human rights," said Weston. "These law-based efforts will provide an essential basis for practical legislative, judicial, and other approaches to the threat of climate change."

Weston, on behalf of the UICHR and the VLS Environmental Law Center, recently received a $500,000 financial commitment from an anonymous donor to launch the Climate Legacy Initiative and to use as a challenge to secure other support. Additional funding is being sought to complete Phase One and to launch Phase Two in 2009. Phase Two, designed to implement the legal theories and strategies developed in Phase One, will concentrate on precedent-setting legislation, litigation, and administration at the local, state, and federal levels, in international agreement-making, and in formal and informal (including media) education.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Service, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010,