• The Maasai community that took on the Tanzanian government – and won, Positive News (Jan 11, 2023)
  • Why 2023 will be a watershed year for climate litigation, The Guardian (Jan 04, 2023)

Read more

Public interest law refers to legal practices undertaken to help poor, marginalized, or under-represented people, or to effect change in social policies in the public interest, on 'not for profit' terms (pro bono publico), often in the fields of civil rights, civil liberties, religious liberty, human rights, women's rights, consumer rights, environmental protection, and so on.

In a celebrated 1905 speech, Louis Brandeis decried the legal profession, complaining that "able lawyers have to a large extent allowed themselves to become adjuncts of great corporations and have neglected their obligation to use their powers for the protection of the people."

In the tradition thus exemplified, a common ethic for public-interest lawyers in a growing number of countries remains "fighting for the little guy".

Resources[edit | edit source]

Organisations working with communities[edit | edit source]

  • Justice Beyond Borders, Global Action Legal Network, " with affected communities to pursue innovative legal actions across borders to challenge powerful actors involved in human rights violations and systemic injustice."
  • Portuguese Youth Climate Case v 33 countries,

Quotes[edit | edit source]

“The rules of our world are laws, and they can be changed. Laws can restrict or they can enable. What matters is what they serve. Many of the laws in our world serve property - they are based on ownership. But imagine a law that has a higher moral authority… a law that puts people and planet first. Imagine a law that starts from first do no harm, that stops this dangerous game and takes us to a place of safety….” Polly Higgins, 2015[1]

“We need to change the rules.” Greta Thunberg, 2019[2]

"I have no illusions that we can simply declare a Law for the Commons. The very idea and its variations must first be formulated for our modern context, and then fought for. But at a time when existing regimes of law and governance are in a shambles – losing public respect, failing to meet people’s basic needs, destroying the Earth – I believe that commoning and laws to enable it have a bright future. Commons can meet people’s needs in fair, open and effective ways, and provide a dignity, respect and equality that the market/state order has trouble achieving. By cultivating more direct engagement with people, and demanding that they step up to responsibilities, commons also have great promise in improving ecological stewardship." David Bollier[3]

News and comment[edit | edit source]


  • Biodiversity: one way to help countries stick to their commitments to restore nature, The Conversation (Dec 20, 2022)
  • ‘This case has made legal history’: young Australians just won a human rights case against an enormous coal mine, The Conversation (Nov 25, 2022)
  • Australia violated the rights of Torres Strait Islanders by failing to act on climate change, the UN says. Here’s what that means, The Conversation (Sep 26, 2022)
  • ‘One of the most progressive and environmentally conscious legal texts on the planet’: Chile’s proposed constitution and its lessons for Australia, The Conversation (Aug 30, 2022)


Australian court finds government has duty to protect young people from climate crisis, May 27[4]

Court orders Royal Dutch Shell to cut carbon emissions by 45% by 2030, May 26[5]...Climate news 2021

Freeing the Future, May 2[6]...Germany news

European Parliament urges support for making ecocide an international crime, January 21, 2021. Public consultation launches on legal definition.[7]


International lawyers draft plan to criminalise ecosystem destruction, Nov 30[8]

Calle Vilnius, Siauliai, Lituania.JPG

Children's climate change case at the European Court of Human Rights: what's at stake? Dec 4[9]

Portuguese children sue 33 countries over climate change at European court, Sep 3[10]

A crime called "ecocide": how Macron in France, and the Danish Parliament, are willing to use laws (and referenda) to hit climate targets, Aug 10[11]

Airline bailouts without climate conditions could be unlawful, May 5[12]...UK Climate news 2020

Dutch officials reveal measures to cut emissions after court ruling, Apr 24[13]

Environmental Personhood: Recent Developments and the Road Ahead, Sanket Khandelwal, Apr 24[14]

The government must abandon its fossil fuel power projects. If not, we’ll sue, George Monbiot, Mar 4[15]


Dutch supreme court upholds landmark ruling demanding climate action, Dec 20[16]

Governments and firms in 28 countries sued over climate crisis – report, Jul 4[17]

Panorámica de la Plaza Grande (Quito D.M.).jpg

Waorani People Win Landmark Legal Victory Against Ecuadorian Government, Apr 26[18]

River granted full rights of legal personhood, Mar 7...New Zealand

Ohio city votes to give Lake Erie personhood status over algae blooms, Feb 28[19]

Demanding a 'right to repair', Jan 16[20]...Reduce, reuse, repair and recycle


Dutch appeals court upholds landmark climate change ruling, Oct 9[21]

Why the world is looking to the Philippines for climate justice, Feb 22[22]

Government air quality plan ruled ‘unlawful’, Feb 21[23]...Environment quality UK news



New Zealand gives Mount Taranaki same legal rights as a person, Dec 22[24]

New Zealand creates special refugee visa for Pacific islanders affected by climate change, Dec 9[25]

I shut down an oil pipeline – because climate change is a ticking bomb, Emily Johnston, Nov 24[26]...Climate news 2017

Oakland Sue 5 Oil Giants for Climate Change Impacts, Sep 20[27]...San Francisco

The new "ecological civilization" will be born in China, according to the best environmental lawyer, Sep 23[28]

How Community-Led 'Rights of Nature' Initiatives Are Protecting Ecosystems, Aug 31[29]

Cyclists riding in Melbourne for 350 Climate Action.jpg

Governments face 'wave of legal action' over climate change inaction as natural disasters worsen, activists warn, Aug 29[30]...Climate news 2017

Mapped: Climate change laws around the world, May 11[31]

Cruel Intentions -- Opposition to Climate Change Response is Swiftly Becoming Illegal, Apr 12[32]

New Zealand river granted same legal rights as human being, Mar 16[33]


ICC widens remit to include environmental destruction cases, Sep 15[34]


The Strategic Value of Developing Law for the Commons, David Bollier, September 6[35]

"I consider this strategy memo as the catalyst for a new discussion – and, I hope, action. The vision is obviously too big for any one of us, or small group of us, to handle alone. But the push of a few dominos could start a chain-reaction of much greater scale – and as my review of commons-based legal initiatives suggests, there are a quite a few of us engaged in law-related commons advocacy. Can we take expand this work to a deeper, richer level?"


Revolution Justified: Review, December 4[36]

Campaigns[edit | edit source], added 15:36, 16 August 2020 (UTC)

Eradicating Ecocide, supporting Ecocide Law.

Ecocide is the extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished. W
In 2010 it was proposed that the Rome Statute be amended to include the international crime of Ecocide. The proposal was submitted to the United Nations International Law Commission who are ‘mandated to promote the progressive development of international law and its codification’. The purpose of the submission was to create the offence of ecocide as the 5th international Crime Against Peace and put in place an international criminal law at the very top level on a par with other Crimes Against the Peace. W

See also[edit | edit source]

local information can be found, or shared, via our many location pages

External links[edit | edit source]

  • Ecocide W
  • Law for the Commons Wiki, Commons Transition Wiki
  • Commons Law Project, "a bold attempt to imagine a new architecture of law and public policy that can effectively address climate change and other urgent ecological problems while advancing human rights and social empowerment. Given the manifest failures of the existing State/Market duopoly to achieve these goals, is imperative that we move beyond reforms of the existing system to instigate new types of governance structures. We see “commons law” (not to be confused with common law) as a way to integrate a broader notion of economics, human rights, and commons-based governance into a compelling new paradigm of environmental protection.
Our book, Green Governance: Ecological Survival, Human Rights, and Law of the Commons (Cambridge University Press, 2013) provides a full argument for this vision. It was preceded and grows out of an earlier, unpublished essay, “Regenerating the Human Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment in the Commons Renaissance.”"

References[edit | edit source]

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