Story | 19 Jun, 2021

Environmental Liability and Biodiversity Webinar

Friday 25 June, 2021 16:00-18:00 CEST

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Photo: Jax Schwanke

Biodiversity loss--driven by actions such as illegal wildlife trade, deforestation, climate change, and mining--causes cascading ecological, social, and economic harm. These impacts place growing demands on legal systems not only to tighten regulations and strengthen enforcement, but also to hold responsible parties liable for the harm they cause.

Although the substance, procedures and practices of law vary across countries, many countries provide a legal right to remedy when the environment is harmed—including in Brazil, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, European Union members, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Philippines and United States (Jones et al. 2015). Yet, liability for environmental harm is virtually absent from practice in many high-biodiversity countries, notably across the Global South. And even where environmental liability has been employed, it has rarely been used to address key drivers of biodiversity, including from illegal harvest, use and trade of natural resources (see Phelps et al.

Strategically leveraged, existing environmental liability laws provide a potentially ground-breaking opportunity to better safeguard biodiversity by remedying harm when it occurs -- holding responsible parties liable for actions such as species rehabilitation, apologies and habitat conservation.

The body of precedent cases, expert guidance, and experience to build lawsuits to remedy biodiversity harm is nascent in most Global South countries.  In this session, we will consider the emerging role of environmental liability litigation.

Moderator: Jacob Phelps, Senior Lecturer, Lancaster Environment Centre, UK


  • Antonio Herman Benjamin, Justice, National High Court of Brazil – STJ; Chair, IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law, Rule of law to address harm to biodiversity, specifically the call for liability litigation as additional to traditional criminal prosecutions and administrative fines (e.g., in reference to Rio Declaration Principle 13)
  • Valerie Fogleman, Professor of Law, Cardiff University, Wales UK, Opportunities and challenges of operationalising environmental liabilities for harm to biodiversity
  • David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, Canada, The growing need for biodiversity litigation and its links to human rights
  • John Pendergrass, Vice President for Programs and Publications, Environmental Law Institute, USA Overview of environmental liability legal authorities around the globe
  • Carol A. Jones, Visiting Scholar in Environmental Economics, Environmental Law Institute, USA, Valuing environmental liability damage claims over 30 years (from Exxon Valdez to new Indonesia illegal wildlife trade case) – moving toward restoration-based damage claims
  • Rika Fajrini, Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law & Taufiq Purna Nugraha, Indonesian Institute of Life Sciences, Indonesia, Launching the guideline: Pioneering civil lawsuits for harm to threatened species
  • Ofir Drodi, EAGLE Network, Kenya, Integrating civil liability claims into illegal wildlife trade cases
  • Sébastien Mabile, Seattle Avocats and Mighty Earth, France, Building biodiversity liability cases, the Calanques National Park example
  • Rebecca Nichols, Lecturer, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, Research on judges’ views about conservation litigation using mock trails