By Eric Rothschild and Steve Harvey

On Friday, January 17, 2020, a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit dismissed the highly publicized children’s climate change lawsuit known as Juliana v. United States because the child plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the lawsuit. The plaintiffs allege that the government by its affirmative actions that contribute to causing climate change (e.g., subsidies, tax provisions, leases on federal land) are violating their 5th Amendment right to life, liberty, and property. They sought declaratory and injunctive relief, including an order requiring the U.S. government “to prepare and implement an enforceable national remedial plan to phase out fossil fuel emissions and draw down excess atmospheric CO2 so as to stabilize the climate system and protect the vital resources on which Plaintiffs now and in the future will depend.” The case survived a motion to dismiss and was ready for trial when the government sought a writ of mandamus and a stay in the Supreme Court. Meanwhile the district court granted summary judgment in part but otherwise denied it and permitted the main allegations to go to trial.

On appeal of the summary judgment decision, the panel held that the children lacked standing on the grounds that their injuries are not redressable by a federal court. It rejected the idea of simply declaring the rights of the parties without granting any injunctive relief because it said that declaration alone would be unlikely to mitigate the plaintiffs’ injuries from climate change. It rejected the argument for an injunction on the grounds that the case raised policy decisions that are committed to the legislative and executive branches and that it lacked any “limited and precise” standard to decide the plaintiffs’ claim (explicitly borrowing a concept from a 2019 Supreme Court case permitting gerrymandering). It acknowledged that “the political branches have to date been largely deaf to the pleas of the plaintiffs,” but held that the court had no power to act, regardless of the force of the plaintiffs’ argument for preventing devastating consequences from the government’s current course of action on climate change.

In dissent, district judge Josephine L. Staton, sitting by designation, offered a powerful critique of the majority’s decision. In response to the assertion that any relief would be meaningless or “just a drop in the bucket,” she responded: “But we are perilously close to an overflowing bucket. These final drops matter. A lot.”

Judge Staton also criticized the majority for its deference to the political branches of government “even if those branches walk the Nation over a cliff.” For Judge Staton, the unprecedented urgency and enormity of the relief requested by plaintiffs to address the constitutional violation was not cause for courts to shrink away from addressing the claims, but the strongest rationale for it. While the nation’s response to its greatest previous injustice was too long delayed, the aggrieved “could take solace that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but bends toward justice’”—and “that possibility provides hope for future generations.” But action delayed on climate will be justice denied for these young plaintiffs—whose “claims are based on science, specifically, an impending point of no return.”

This issue of standing to be heard on the constitutional implications of climate change is not settled yet. The Plaintiffs and their attorneys will petition for a review en banc by the entire 9th Circuit and eventually it will likely be addressed by the Supreme Court. Stated broadly, the issue is whether judge-made standing doctrines prevents the federal judiciary from addressing the most consequential civil rights issue ever presented. Does the United States Constitution impose limits on the federal governments’ fossil-fuel promoting activities if those activities endanger all of its citizens? For the good of all, the answer to the question must be yes.

In the words of Thomas Jefferson: “A strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means.”

But whether the answer is yes or no, the federal courts should consider and decide it. That decision will ultimately need to be made by the Supreme Court, but it should start at a trial like the one that was scheduled in the Juliana case. Anything less is an abdication of judicial responsibility commensurate with the abdication of responsibility by the legislative and executive branches that gave rise to the plaintiffs’ case in the first place.


Lawyers Should Stand with Greta and Youth Climate Movement

The world community over the last few days has seen the reaction of youth across the globe to the unfolding climate change catastrophe. Greta Thunberg’s presence and words at the United Nations in New York were the centerpiece of an international movement of children and young people demanding a stop to the madness of unrelenting greenhouse gas emissions. They want the nations of the world to take all steps necessary to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions down to zero with additional measures such as reforestation to take us to net zero, they want governments everywhere to have well-funded plans to deal effectively with the changes already being caused, and they want all this—no, they demand it—as soon as possible.

Greta and the Fridays for Future youth movement are right. The science on climate change is clear. Unless fundamental changes are made, this unfolding catastrophe can only get much worse. We have a moral imperative to stop this. Business as usual scenarios on climate emissions from the US, China, and India makes zero sense, from an economic or any other perspective.

As lawyers, we should do everything reasonable in our power to support the youth climate movement by joining in their call for speedy reduction and soon elimination of greenhouse gas emissions and other measures to stabilize the climate. Here are some things you can do right now.

  • Eat less meat and share your concern about worldwide meat consumption with friends and family. Support meatless Mondays at your law firm or office.  Learn more here.
  • Support sustainability in law practice. Learn more here.
  • Write to your federal elected officials and tell them that you agree with the youth movement on climate change and you support strong government action to address the urgent problem of climate change. Learn more here.
  • Look for ways to promote the cause of fighting climate change at your legal workplace and in any bar association or other legal organization of which you are a member, such as:

The American Bar Association adopted a resolution in August 2019 urging “lawyers to engage in pro bono activities to aid efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.” Lawyers should heed the call.

This is far too important to leave to the youth movement to fight alone. The youth are right to demand action on climate. The legal profession and community should support the youth climate movement.

Lawyers Climate Week Day 2: Law Firm Action Tuesday





  1. Set your printers to duplex printing by default and use a minimum of 30% recycled content to consume fewer trees.
  2. Use a small, thin font like Courier or one that has perforation to use less ink.
  3. Create a supplies reuse center to save money and use fewer materials.
  4. Reuse materials like bubble wrap and paper for packages and recycle plastic packaging (i.e., shrinkwrap, plastic pouches etc) that bear the Store Drop Off label.
  5. Choose non-stop flights; as much as 50% of emissions come from takeoff and landing.
  6. Opt out of single-serve coffee pods or use ones that are recyclable or compostable.
  7. Buy Energy Star-rated electronics/appliances to increase energy efficiency and reduce emissions.
  8. Use non-toxic paints/carpeting to reduce pollutants and emissions and to improve employee wellness.
  9. Institute a “last out, lights off” policy to conserve energy and money.
  10. Maintain your HVAC system to ensure optimum temperature, humidity, and air quality to reduce environmental impact as well enhance employee productivity and wellness.


BONUS:  Member of the LFSN?  Complete your ALISS law firm sustainability assessment!  Or become a member and take the assessment!

Lawyers Climate Week Day 1: Take the Meatless Monday Pledge

Skipping meat for one day a week is a modest change that can make a BIG difference in your carbon/methane footprint. Getting your workplace to adopt Meatless Monday will make a far BIGGER difference.


Here are 9 facts for you and your colleagues to consider:

  1. Meat production is one of the largest contributors to methane in the atmosphere. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 84x more effective than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere.
  2. If all the cattle in the world had their own nation, “Cattle-Nation” would be the world’s third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the U.S.
  3. Animal based foods are far more resource intensive, while plant based foods have a vastly lower carbon footprint.
  4. A third of the world’s crops and a third of available fresh water are used for livestock production.
  5. Eating less meat and more plant-based food can make you and your colleagues significantly more healthy.
  6. The average American consumes about 8 ounces of meat per day.   By eliminating meat from your diet just one day per week you’re reducing your meat intake by 14%.
  7. A Meatless Monday advocate emits nearly a ton less of CO2 per year.
  8. The shift towards plant based foods is being driven by millennials, who are much more conscious of how much meat they eat, where it comes from and how it impacts the environment; a workplace that adopts Meatless Monday is a more millennial-friendly workplace, which may even help with recruiting and retention.
  9. Every burger you replace with a veggie or meat alternative burger is the same as driving your car 320 fewer miles.

Take the pledge and go Meatless on Mondays!  And how about putting Meatless Monday on the agenda of your next staff meeting?

Thank you for giving this your consideration, and please consider sharing these facts with a few colleagues and friends.

Lawyers Climate Week: Lawyers for Climate Action Now Friday, September 27

Lawyers, individually, and collectively as a profession, are uniquely positioned to advance public sector climate solutions. Protecting society from harm is the most fundamental purpose of law and government. Faced with clear evidence of impending harm, we as citizens and lawyers have a duty to speak out on the need for effective government action to prevent or mitigate such harm. Climate change is a current and impending harm.

Lawyers have a special duty to speak out on important societal issues, especially regarding matters that may be effectively redressed through law. As concerned citizens, lawyers can be valuable participants in many forms of climate sustainability activism, including advocating for action to elected official and policymakers. As part of Lawyers Climate Week, on Friday September 27, 2019, we are urging that letters be sent to your elected officials to urge meaningful and cost-effective action to address climate change.

A brief excerpt of the attached draft letter that can be sent to U.S. Senators and Representatives on the climate emergency follows:

As a first step toward slowing and then reversing the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, I urge you to support or sponsor legislation that would put a price on carbon, eliminate fossil fuel subsidies and boost renewable energy and climate friendly agriculture. Without these commonsense steps we will consign future generations to dire health, safety, security and economic consequences that no later policy can meaningfully and cost-effectively address.

You can find your elected officials at the federal level in the U.S. as follows:

Our call to our fellow members of the bar – and others – for climate action begins now. Won’t you add your voice to the call.

Constituent Letter Sample

The Global Climate Strike is Coming

The world will be focused on climate change at the end of September.  The United Nations will be holding a climate summit on Monday, September 23. Activities will be taking place all week to focus attention on the challenges caused by climate change and the need for urgent actions to combat it.  The American Bar Association has just passed a resolution urging lawyers to get involved with climate advocacy.  At Lawyers for Climate Action-A Call to the Bar, we are responding with Lawyers Climate Week, offering educational events and opportunities for activism to the legal profession.


Before all that happens, however, young people will lead the way.  You can help.  On September 20, youth activists will lead a Global Climate Strike.  This strike marks the next step in the series of school strikes for climate and other activism led by young climate change advocates like the Juliana litigation plaintiffs, Alexandra Villasenior, and Greta Thunberg, who traveled across the ocean in a zero greenhouse-gas emissions sailboat to take part in this month’s events.


Young people, who have more at stake than any of us, will again lead a series of protests and other actions.  This time, they are asking adults to join them.   “If a kid says help, you help.”  We encourage lawyers who are able to do so, to answer their call.  Nobody should neglect their solemn responsibilities to their clients.  But most of the time, lawyers have more flexibility than health care professionals, teachers, or workers assigned to shifts about how and when we do our work, and when to pursue other interests and commitments.  On September 20, consider spending part of your day taking part in climate activism, and permitting your colleagues at your law firm, school, business or other organization to do the same.  And let us know—we’ll be sure to give you some shine!

Lawyers Climate Week: Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization Webinar Wednesday, September 25, 2019


Join us for a special session on Wednesday, September 25th, as Call to the Bar and the Law Firm Sustainability Network co-host a webinar session to discuss the book titled Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States and a unique pro bono project in which lawyers draft model legislation to implement recommendations from the book. Register here.

This book contains key information and recommendations that explain technical and policy pathways for reducing US greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050.  This 80×50 target and similarly aggressive carbon abatement goals are often referred to as deep decarbonization, distinguished because it requires systemic changes to the energy economy. Using these technical and policy pathways, Legal Pathways provides a legal playbook for deep decarbonization in the United States, identifying well over 1,000 legal options for enabling the United States to address one of the greatest problems facing this country and the rest of humanity.

Participants are invited to learn how law firms can help implement the more than 1,000 options identified in a new book, Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States, edited by Professors Michael Gerrard and John Dernbach. More than 20 law firms have already signed up for this work, and more are needed.The legal options identified involve federal, state and local law, as well as private governance. The 34 individual topics addressed by the book relate generally to:

  • Energy efficiency, conservation, and fuel switching in buildings, industry and transportation
  • Electricity and fuel decarbonization
  • Carbon capture and negative emissions
  • Non-carbon dioxide climate pollutants


John Dernbach

Commonwealth Professor of Environmental Law and Sustainability Director, Environmental Law and Sustainability Center @Widener University

John Dernbach is a nationally and internationally recognized authority on sustainable development, climate change, and environmental law. He is the director of the Environmental Law and Sustainability Center, and brings his expertise on property, environmental law, international law, and sustainability. Professor Dernbach writes and lectures widely on climate change, sustainable development, and environmental law. He has written more than 50 articles for law reviews and peer-reviewed journals, and has authored, coauthored, or contributed chapters to more than 20 books  Commonwealth Professor of Environmental Law and Sustainability Director, Environmental Law and Sustainability Center@Widener University


Michael Gerrard
Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice @Columbia Law School
Michael B. Gerrard, Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia Law School, teaches courses on environmental law, climate change law, and energy regulation, and founded and directs the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. He also chaired the faculty of Columbia University’s Earth Institute from 2015 to 2018. From 1979 through 2008, he practiced environmental law in New York, most recently as partner in charge of the New York office of Arnold & Porter. Upon joining the Law School faculty in 2009, he became the senior counsel. His practice involved trying numerous cases and arguing many appeals in federal and state courts and administrative tribunals; handling the environmental aspects of numerous transactions and development projects; and providing regulatory compliance advice to a wide variety of clients in the private and public sectors. A prolific writer in environmental law and climate change, Gerrard twice received the Association of American Publishers’ Best Law Book Award.

Richard Horsch
Retired Partner of Counsel @White & Case 
Rick Horsch is Retired Partner of Counsel at White & Case LLP, a global law firm. His practice has focused on U.S. environmental law and international environmental law.  He regularly advises on climate change matters. He is a former Co-Chair of the ABA International Environmental Law Committee. Since 2011 he has been an Adjunct with the Columbia University School of Professional Studies where he teaches courses on domestic and international environmental law. He is currently working on a pro bono basis with Professors John Dernbach and Michael Gerrard in managing the Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization implementation project.

Lawyers Climate Week: Law Firm Action Tuesday, September 24, 2019


Founded in August of 2011, the Law Firm Sustainability Network (“LFSN”) consists of law firms united and committed to promoting the benefits of environmental sustainability and corporate responsibility within their firms and throughout the legal industry.

Dedicated to law firm sustainability, LFSN has sought to establish environmental sustainability as a key component of professional and corporate responsibility.  Committed to improvement, the LFSN developed the American Legal Industry Sustainability Standard (“ALISS”), an online self-assessment for firms to measure key aspects of sustainability, to identify specific areas of strength and opportunities for improvement as well as recognition.   Devoted to knowledge-sharing, the LFSN fosters sharing and collaboration through webinars, roundtables and resources, including on demand learning and case studies that explore a wide-range of sustainability topics.

The LFSN is recognized as the premiere collaborative sustainability organization for U.S. law firms and law offices.  Membership is open to law firms and in-house legal departments.  Many LSFN members are AM Law 100, boutique or regional firms.  LFSN carries diverse representation from attorneys to management to professional and administrative staff sharing perspectives.  The LFSN is in part, funded by the generosity of its Leadership Council, including law firms Beveridge & Diamond PC, Nixon Peabody LLP, and Seyfarth Shaw LLP.  Visit https://lfsnetwork.org or contact Gayatri Joshi, Executive Director of the LFSN, gjoshi@ecoanalyze.com.

What next?

  1. Continue to learn more about the Law Firm Sustainability Network and the ALISS law firm sustainability assessment to see what actions your firm can take.
  2. Register for LFSN’s & CTTB’s co-hosted webinar on Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization and learn how your law firm can participate.
  3. Propose a Meatless Monday campaign in your law firm’s cafeteria and catering to reduce your emissions, conserve resources and raise awareness.

Look out for quick and easy action tips from the LFSN on Law Firm Action Tuesday, Sept. 24th.

Meatless Monday: Do you know what your “methane footprint” is?

Michael Maya, Director
International Bar Association – North America (Washington, D.C.)

Do you know what your “methane footprint” is?  And why is it so important? Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is 84x more effective than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere.  Leading scientists and the United Nations have issued multiple, dire warnings about the need to keep methane emissions in check.  So what is the biggest contributor to your methane footprint?  Hands down, it’s beef, lamb and other livestock.  In other words, our diets.  More generally, human influenced sources contribute most of the methane in the atmosphere.  But livestock stands out as the most insidious, with grazing animals contributing roughly 40% of the annual methane released per year.  Did you know that, if all the cattle in the world had their own nation, “Cattle-Nation” would be the world’s third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the U.S.?  Please see the chart below.


Also, did you know that livestock production is the second leading cause of global warming after energy production? Please see the chart below.


Leading Causes of Global Warming

Source: www.scientificamerican.com/slideshow/the-greenhouse-hamburger/ 


There is a reason why it’s useful to think of industrial meat production as the “coal mining of food production.”  Given the above, it’s not surprising that numerous scholars have concluded that reducing our meat consumption is the single most effective thing we can do as individuals to combat climate change.


As lawyers, we can use our legal training and advocacy to promote climate solutions.  But as individuals we can be a part of the solution by (1) cutting back on our meat consumption, thereby reducing our methane footprint, and (2) exerting a bit of leadership in our workplace by persuading the organization with which we are affiliated to do the same.  Hence, the concept of Meatless Monday.  Meatless Monday is a simple, elegant, partial solution to mankind’s ever-growing methane footprint.  By giving up meat just one day per week, you are reducing your meat intake by roughly 14% — a very meaningful reduction when it comes to climate change.


Call to the Bar and our many partner law firms and organizations are taking the pledge to go Meatless on Mondays.   The International Bar Association’s office in Washington, D.C. last year adopted a Meatless Monday policy at the suggestion of a colleague – to this day, a committed carnivore — who recognized the need to cut back on meat consumption for the sake of our groaning planet.  Will you join us in adopting this policy? How about suggesting that “Meatless Monday” be an agenda item at your next staff meeting?  You likely will be surprised by how many people will support this small but important move in the right direction.  Some of your colleagues will lend their support because they recognize the impact our diet is having on climate change.  Some will be motivated by health reasons, and still others by animal welfare considerations.  Whatever the motivation, your leadership is needed now more than ever.  Thank you for giving this your consideration.


Note: If you have questions about the above content, please contact Michael Maya at: michael.maya@int-bar.org

Lawyers Climate Week to Correspond with UN Climate Summit

After one of the hottest summers on record, climate change will be the focus of international attention on September 23, 2019, as the UN convenes in New York for the UN Climate Summit. That entire week in New York City is designated Climate Week NYC.

That same week is also being designated Lawyers Climate Week. From September 23rd-27th, each day of Lawyers Climate Week will highlight a different theme and how you can participate in the solution.   Every week until then, we will focus on one of the daily themes and share aspects of the issues.

  • Monday of Lawyers Climate Week will promote Meatless Mondays as an important step for reducing harmful emissions. Read more here.
  • Tuesday will focus on what lawyers and law firms can do to be more sustainable from the Law Firm Sustainability Network.
  • Wednesday will feature a webinar on Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization.
  • Thursday will feature a webinar on sustainability: What is it? How is it different than climate change?
  • Friday will focus on a call to action by national leaders in government and the private sector.