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Climate Legacy Initiative Publishes Policy Paper

ImageThe Climate Legacy Initiative (CLI) just published its policy paper, Recalibrating the Law of Humans with the Laws of Nature: Climate Change, Human Rights, and Intergenerational Justice.  The CLI is devoted to bringing the law of government in line with the laws of nature.  Its goal is nothing less than to change the way we think about our world – and the way our laws deal with a world rocked by climate change.
Across epochs, cultures, and regional and partisan divides, the obligation to do right by our children carries moral and political weight.  In fact, legal systems in the United States and around the world already include a great deal of law arguing for intergenerational rights and responsibilities.  Much of this flows from three core obligations that each generation has to the next:

  • Diverse Options: A responsibility to ensure that future generations have the ability to make choices about how they live in the world they inherit. Preserving diversity of choice, and not diminishing the range of natural and cultural resources available, is the only way to give future generations the flexibility they deserve.
  • Environmental Quality: A responsibility to pass on a world that has not been damaged by our actions – and a related responsibility to repair the actions of the past.
  • Equal Access: A responsibility to give equal access to public resources – both to our neighbors today and our children tomorrow.  Shared resources aren’t ours to destroy as we see fit, but should be passed on.

These three principles are encapsulated in the simple idea of the Intergenerational Golden Rule: When making decisions about our world, we should do unto our children as we wish our parents had done unto us.

The CLI’s new policy paper presents specific recommendations for achieving that goal.
To do so, Burns Weston, the CLI’s director, and Tracy Bach, the associate director, enlisted a distinguished panel of advisor.  The panel includes James Gustave Speth, Dean of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies; Roger Kennedy, former director of the National Park Service; Edith Brown Weiss, professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center; Harriet Barlow, director of HKH Foundation and the Blue Mountain Center; Jörg (Chet) Tremmel, founder and director of the Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations (Germany); Bryan Norton, Professor of Philosophy at Gerogia Tech School of Public Policy, and a charter member of the Environmental Economics Advisory Committee of EPA’s Science Advisory Board; David W.Orr, Chair of the Environmental Studies Program at Oberlin College; Richard A. Falk, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University and Visiting Professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara; Gary Hart, Co-Chair of the Presidential Climate Action Committee National Advisory Committee, Professor at the University of Colorado at Denver, and U.S. senator (CO — ret.); and Bill McKibben, environmentalist author and scholar in residence at Middlebury College. 

For more information about the CLI and for downloads of its policy paper, go to http://www.vermontlaw.edu/

„Gratulácío!“ – Hungary gets a new ombudsman for future generations

Image With the appointment of an “ombudsman for future generations” in May 2008, Hungary secured a pioneering role in the institutionalisation of intergenerational justice. The construction of an institution to represent those people who are least integrated in the democratic decision-making process, the future generations, was driven by a young NGO from Budapest called “Save the future”. Laszlo Solyom, editor of the new law and today’s Hungarian president definitely contributed to the fact that the draft became reality. On 28 May 2008, Sándor Fülöp was appointed as “ombudsman for future generations” by the Hungarian parliament.

There are only few official institutions which concentrate on saving the rights of future generations (just half a dozen all over the world) and the Hungarian model probably is the most promising one because of the ombudsman’s powers. He can control both legislation and administration concerning the protection of the environment and the relating areas. He can open a supervising procedure, for example, delay the execution and take part in trials.

But there are also some problems connected with this mandate. After all, the ombudsman cannot come to an agreement with the people he has to represent, the future generations, and hence those hardly have a possibility to veto his decisions. One also has to cast a critical eye on the Hungarian law which restricts his powers to protection of the environment. In an interview Fülöp at least emphasized: “ I am going to fulfill all the legal responsibilities of the environmental ombudsman but I have the ambition of serving the future generations, too.”

For further information about the institutionalisation of intergenerational justice in other countries also read: Tremmel, Jörg (2006): Establishing intergenerational justice in national constitutions