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Conferences & Symposia

2022 Symposium

Climate Change and Law: Global to Local Legal and Policy Challenges

Wisconsin International Law Journal
University of Wisconsin Law School

Date: March 31 and April 1, 2022


Climate change is a defining issue of our generation. From the mass movement of people to the disappearance of island states, the adverse consequences of climate change pose unique and unprecedented legal challenges. Moreover, given the disproportionate impact on poor and vulnerable communities and states, climate change raises profound social justice challenges.

United States is not immune to these consequences. From indigenous communities in Alaska to Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, communities are being relocated due to climate change while coastal communities from Florida to California are worrying about constant flooding and the impact on their property values, increasing severe and frequent extreme weather events, and wildfires ravaging the country, its economy and people. As the highest contributor to greenhouse gases historically, the United States has a greater responsibility to address climate change.

President Biden has risen to this challenge. Within hours of being sworn in, he re-joined the Paris Agreement and issued an executive order on climate change. On Earth Day, he held a virtual summit on climate change with world leaders where he pledged to halve carbon emissions by 2030 and go carbon neutral by 2050.

This symposium seeks to look at these developments. Climate change as well as transitioning to a low carbon economy pose many legal and policy challenges. It will feature leading lawyers, policy makers and activists to look at these challenges and the way forward. The symposium will launch the Wisconsin Initiative on Law and Climate Change (WILCC), a joint initiative between the Human Rights Program and the Global Legal Studies Center at the UW Law School.

CLE Information

Approved for 9.5 hours of CLE credits for WI Attorneys

CLE Background Readings


Day 1: Thursday, March 31, 2022

Time given is in US Central Standard Time (CST).
Time Event
4:30 p.m.

Welcome Address

5:00-6:30 p.m.

Panel 1: Climate Change, Consequences and Challenges

This panel will discuss the science of climate change, its consequences on people, environment and the economy and the challenges of addressing it. It will also discuss the disproportionate impact on racial and other minorities.


  • Steve Vavrus, Atmospheric Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Wil Burns, Environmental Policy & Culture Program, Northwestern University
  • Carmen Gonzalez, Loyola University Chicago School of Law
  • Jacqueline Patterson, Chisholm Legacy Project
  • Dayna Nadine Scott, Osgoode Hall Law School and the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change, York University, Toronto
6:30-7:30 p.m.

Reception and launch of Wisconsin Initiative on Law and Climate Change (WILCC)

Day 2: Friday, April 1, 2022

Time given is in US Central Standard Time (CST).
Time Event
8:00 a.m.

Breakfast and Registration

8:15 -9:00 a.m.

Keynote Address

Speaker: Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes, State of Wisconsin


Panel 2: Climate Justice and Vulnerable Communities

Climate change poses an existential threat to certain groups and communities. This panel will take a closer look at these communities.


  • Dessima Williams, Former Ambassador to the United States from Grenada
  • Sumudu Atapattu, University of Wisconsin Law School
  • Ayman Cherkaoui, Hassan II International Center for Environmental Training, Morocco
  • Robin Bronen, Alaska Institute for Justice
  • Damiola S. Olawuyi, HBKU Law School, Doha, Qatar
10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Panel 3: International Law and Climate Change

This panel will discuss how international law has addressed climate change, climate negotiations including COP26 in Glasgow, North/South challenges, climate refugees, human rights, and small island states.


  • Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh, Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies, Leiden University & Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development, University of the South Pacific
  • Christina Voigt, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Patricia Galvo Ferreira, University of Windsor, Canada
  • Juan Auz, Center for Fundamental Rights, Hertie School, Berlin
1:30-3:00 p.m.

Panel 4: US Law and Climate Change

This panel will discuss how the United States has responded to climate change, President Biden’s Executive Order on climate change, the infrastructure bill and other recent initiatives on climate change. It will highlight what initiatives California and New York have taken to address climate change.


  • Steph Tai, University of Wisconsin Law School
  • Michael Gerrard, Columbia Law School
  • Alice Kaswan, University of San Francisco School of Law
  • Mary Wood, University of Oregon School of Law
3:15-4:30 p.m.

Panel 5: Wisconsin and Climate Change

This panel will discuss the impact of climate change on Wisconsin, the Governor’s task force on climate change, and how the state is responding to climate change and law and policy challenges.


  • Gary Besaw, Menominee Tribal Department of Agriculture and Food system
  • Jessica Price, City of Madison
  • Nada Elmikashfi, Office of Representative Hong
  • Stephanie Salgado, Youth Climate Action Team
4:45-5:45 p.m.

Roundtable on Teaching Climate Law

This panel will discuss the impact of climate change on WI, the Governor’s TF on climate change and how WI is responding to climate change and law and policy challenges.

Past Symposia

More information on all Symposia can be found on the University of Wisconsin Law Library’s Digital Repository’s WILJ Symposiums.



  • link to PDF 2019 WILJ Symposium Program: Lawyers and Lawyering in China and Russia: Common Challenges
  • link to PDF 2018 WILJ Symposium Program: Sustainable Development Goals and International Law: Intersections of Environmental Law, Human Rights, and Environmental Justice
  • link to PDF 2017 WILJ Symposium Program: Regional Human Rights Systems in Crisis
  • 2016 WILJ Symposium: Stamping Privacy’s Passport: The Role of International Law in Safeguarding Individual Privacy
  • 2015 WILJ Symposium: International Law Walks the Line: Border Disputes and Resolution for the 21st Century
  • 2014 WILJ Symposium: Creation of International Law: Exploring the International Law Components of Peace
  • 2013 WILJ Symposium: A Comparative Perspective on Social Justice Lawyering in Asia: Conditions, Practices and Possibilities
  • link to PDF 2012 WILJ Symposium Poster: Renewable Energy & Climate Change: Opportunities & Challenges
  • 2010 WILJ Symposium: Personal Reminiscences of David Trubek