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For Immediate Release, February 12, 2009


Kierán Suckling, Executive Director, Center for Biological Diversity, (520) 275-5960
Patrick Parenteau, Senior Counsel, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, Vermont College of Law, (802) 831-1305

Center for Biological Diversity Announces Climate Law Institute,
Dedicates $17 Million to Combat Global Warming

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity today announced the launch of its San Francisco-based Climate Law Institute and the dedication of $17 million to fight global warming over the next five years.

“Global warming is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. It is the defining issue of our time,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center. “To meet the challenge, the Center for Biological Diversity has created the Climate Law Institute to extend the reach of current environmental and human health laws to encompass global warming, pass new climate legislation, and reinvent America’s approach to protecting endangered species and public lands.”

The path-breaking institute will be directed by Kassie Siegel, the current director of the Center’s Climate, Air, and Energy program. That program will be replaced by the multidisciplinary institute, which will expand and direct climate change work across the Center’s biodiversity, oceans, public lands, urban wildlands, and international programs.

A graduate of the University of California Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law, Siegel authored the scientific petition, and argued the legal case, that won Endangered Species Act protection for the polar bear due to global warming in 2008. Along with institute advisory board member Deborah Sivas, she won the California Lawyer of the Year award for successfully arguing a 2007 case that overturned inadequate federal fuel-economy standards for failing to consider their contribution to global warming. In 2006, Siegel brought a successful case under the Global Change Research Act, forcing the Bush administration to release suppressed studies documenting the ecological, economic, and human health impacts of global warming.

“The problem of global warming cuts across all environmental arenas,” said Suckling. “It challenges the environmental movement to rethink traditional ways of doing business. Today we are fundamentally reorganizing the Center to integrate global warming into everything we do and to launch an unprecedented assault on the causes of climate change.”

The primary goals of the Climate Law Institute are to:

• Establish legal precedents requiring existing environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Water Act, and the California Environmental Quality Act to be fully implemented to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, land management, and wildlife management;

• Establish new state and federal environmental laws and policies to rein in global warming;

• Ensure all new laws and policies are judged against the scientific standard of whether they will lead to a reduction in atmospheric CO2 from 385 ppm to below 350 ppm;

• Prevent the construction of new coal-fired power plants and coal mines while quickly phasing out existing coal-fired power plants;

• Prevent the creation of an oil-shale or tar sands energy sector;

• Reverse the deadly process of ocean acidification;

• Prevent the loss of Arctic ice cover and likely runaway global warming that would ensue.

“The planet can not afford a single new coal-fired power plant,” said Suckling. “It can’t even afford existing coal plants. Working with partners in government and the environmental movement, the Center for Biological Diversity will ensure America moves beyond coal energy as rapidly as possible. Our lives depend on it.”

“Climate change is a crisis we don't need and can't afford. It's time to kick the fossil fuel addiction once and for all,” said Climate Law Institute advisory board member Patrick Parenteau, Professor of Law at the Vermont Law School. “Environmental protection in the U.S. has always revolved around the creation and interpretation of law. The Climate Law Institute is an exciting and necessary effort to fast-track the development of climate change case law.”

The Climate Law Institute’s advisory board will ensure the institute integrates the highest level of science, law, and policy into its work. The current board is comprised of:

Luke Cole
Director, Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment

Raúl M. Grijalva
Congressman, 7th District of Arizona

Sean B. Hecht
Lecturer in Law
Executive Director, Environmental Law Center,
UCLA School of Law

Cara Horowitz
Executive Director, Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment,
UCLA School of Law

Pamela Martin
Assistant Professor, Department of the Geophysical Sciences and the College,
University of Chicago

Patrick A. Parenteau
Professor of Law
Senior Counsel, Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic,
Vermont College of Law

Cymie Payne
Director, Global Commons Project
Associate Director, Center for Law, Energy and the Environment
UC Berkeley School of Law

Deborah A. Sivas
Professor of Law
Director, Stanford Environmental Law Clinic

Funding of $6.3 million for the Climate Law Institute has already been provided by the California Community Foundation, The Sandler Foundation, The Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, and others.

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