Ritwick Dutta and Rahul Choudhary, co-founders of Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment meeting representatives from Aurora in Stockholm, December 2021

Bringing together law and youth climate action for meaningful change

News 23.05.2022

By Ida Edling & Agnes Hjortsberg from Auroramålet

One day in December 2021, a group of climate activists walked into Kulturhuset in Stockholm, nursing dreams and plans of using the law as a tool for climate justice. After an hour or so, the activists of Aurora left the building feeling guided by a new beacon of inspiration. Our meeting with the founders of Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE), which was a recipient of the 2021 Right Livelihood Award, strengthened our belief in the possibility and efficiency of legal environmental activism, and their example has led us in our work towards climate justice ever since.

The struggle for climate justice spans decades and centuries of indigenous peoples and scientists, among others, alerting society about the climate crisis. Those most affected by climate change, mass extinction and worldwide over-exploitation of ecosystems and people have stood at the forefront of the fight for a sustainable future. In recent years, the global youth climate movement has grown, both in size and in media coverage.

In Sweden, we can see multiple climate movements taking form and using different ways of action. Some take to the streets, marching for climate justice. Some take to civil disobedience, protesting ecological destruction by breaking the law. Aurora takes to the courts, suing the Swedish government for insufficient climate action. We aim to use the law as another tool in the struggle toward a just, habitable planet. We are a Swedish extension of a growing climate litigation movement, whose earlier members have succeeded in establishing far-reaching responsibilities for States to take more ambitious climate measures through court cases.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, climate litigation has now become a “powerful force in climate governance”. Making the judicial system our arena for climate action underlines a powerful message sent by many before us: the ecological crisis of our time is not merely an issue of differing political views. It is an issue of justice.

LIFE has taught us that incomplete or even faulty environmental legal frameworks are not an inescapable cause for despair. The law, with all its limitations, can still be utilised to promote ecological stability, environmental democracy and climate justice. The impact of working towards these goals within the legal system is potentially largely effective: Because the law is something that everyone in our society must adhere to, a duty to protect the environment becomes stronger if it is legally established. The skill and efficiency with which LIFE wields this powerful tool are a great inspiration for our budding movement of climate litigation and legal environmental activism.

Aurora is a growing group of children, young people and adults who have started a court process against the Swedish state for their lack of adequate action against climate change. Aurora’s goal is to defend children’s and young people’s statutory rights to a good environment, life, health and development. This is done partly by preparing legal measures, and partly by contributing in the media to the climate crisis being at the centre of the public debate ahead of the 2022 national election in Sweden.

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