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Conference on Human Rights and Climate Change

Thursday 27 January 2022 - Friday 28 January 2022
Online (Zoom)

Interdisciplinary conference

On 27-28 January 2022, Leiden University’s interdisciplinary seed grant programme ‘Beyond Anthropocentric Interests and Values? Human Rights and Climate Change’ will host a conference on human rights and climate change. The conference is open to the public. If you wish to attend, please register by 24 January 2022.

Demonstration against climate change


The impact of climate change on the human condition has only recently been framed in terms of its effects on the enjoyment of human rights including the right to life, health, housing, water, food, and development of both present and future generations. The negative impacts of climate change on the enjoyment of human rights are hard to deny. Yet, framing these impacts as human rights violations triggers a myriad of philosophical, legal and practical questions. In some views, for example, the dominant concept of human rights presupposes individualistic harm and responsibility that cannot be easily applied to aggregate problems such as climate change. Others go a step further and question the human rights approach to climate change as such on the grounds that it cannot provide sufficient protection to non-human parts of nature due to its anthropocentric foundations. Legal scholars and practitioners also point at a range of legal and evidentiary questions, such as questions relating to the territorial scope of human rights obligations and the attribution of harm. While criticisms such as these do not necessarily defeat the role of human rights in the context of climate change, they do make a strong case for re-examining their role in theory and practice. We will revisit these questions from a variety of perspectives (see the preliminary programme below).


Please register before 24 January 2022 by sending an email to Angelieke Wolters (a.l.wolters@phil.leidenuniv.nl) using the subject line ‘Conference registration’ and stating your name and institutional affiliation (if any). You will receive the link to the Zoom event a day before the conference.

We look forward to seeing you there!

The Organising Committee

Jelena Belic, Tim Meijers, Andrei Poama, Tom Theuns, Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh (all from Leiden University)


Preliminary programme

*all times Central European (UTC+01.00)

Thursday, 27 January 2022

  • 12.00 – 12.15 Welcome and Introduction
    Jan Aart Scholte, Leiden University; Jelena Belic, Leiden University
  • 12.15 – 13.15 Session One (chair: Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh, Leiden University)
    Asmaa Khadim, Leiden University “Constitutional Environmental Rights”
    Liliana Lizarazo Rodriguez, Vrije Universiteit Brussels “Human Rights and Climate Change: Modern Anthropocentric Dutch Courts vs Neo-constitutional (Postmodern Ecocentric) Colombian Courts”
  • 13.15 – 14.00 Lunch break
  • 14.00 – 15.00 Session Two (chair: Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh, Leiden University)
    Daniëlla Dam-de Jong, Leiden University “Environmental Human Rights Law”
    Maria Antonia Tigre, Columbia University “The Recognition of the International Right to a Healthy Environment: What Does It Mean for Climate Litigation?”
  • 15.00 – 15.30 Break
  • 15.30 – 16.30 Session Three (chair: Andrei Poama, Leiden University)
    Natascha Kersting, University of Cambridge, Raphael Oidtmann, University of Mannheim “Ecocide at the International Criminal Court – A New International Crime Unfolding?”
    Visa Kurki, University of Helsinki “Can Nature Hold Rights? It’s Not as Easy as You Think”
  • 16.30 – 17.00 Break
  • 17.00 – 18.00 Session Four (chair: Tom Theuns, Leiden University)
    Leon Žganec-Brajša, University of Zagreb “How Climate Change Redefines Right to Self-Determination? The Example of Small Island States”
    Jamie Draper, University of Oxford “Climate Change and Displacement: Towards a Pluralist Approach”
  • From 18.30 Social time

Friday, 28 January 2022

  • 12.00 – 13.00 Session Five (chair: Tim Meijers, Leiden University)
    Hanna-Maria Niemi, University of Eastern Finland “Climate Change and Human Dignity”
    Jelena Belic, Leiden University “Absolute Rights and Climate Change”
  • 13.00 – 14.00 Lunch break
  • 14.00 – 15.00 Session Six (chair: Tim Meijers, Leiden University)
    Milla Vaha, The University of the South Pacific “Let’s Talk about Reparations: Human Rights, Climate Crisis and Loss and Damage”
    Laura Garcia-Portela, University of Fribourg “How to Best Justify Compensation for Climate Change? Human Rights and the Continuous Pull of Moral Reasons”
  • 15.00 – 15.30 Break
  • 15.30 – 16.30 Session Seven (chair: Andrei Poama, Leiden University)
    Matthias Petel, Sam Bookman, Harvard Law School “Climate Litigation and Climate Justice: The Distributive Dimensions of Rights-Based Climate Litigation in Europe”
    Damien Short, University of London, “The Ecological Crisis, Human Consumption and Human Rights”
  • 16.30 – 17.00 Break
  • 17.00 – 18.00 Session Eight (chair: Jelena Belic, Leiden University)
    Rebecca Ploof, Leiden University “Can Rights be Enough? Post-Politics and the Climate Catastrophe”
    Eamon Aloyo, Leiden University “Individual Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Legitimate Coercion: The Substantial Risk of Harm to Others Account”
  • 18.00 – 18.15 Concluding remarks
  • From 18.15 Social time

The conference is part of the project Beyond Anthropocentric Interests and Values? Human Rights and Climate Change funded by the Global Transformations and Governance Challenges Leiden University Initiative.

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