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Lawsuits for the future: how can litigation help ensure a liveable climate for future generations?

Katalin Sulyok (PhD) poster
Friday, February 16, 2024, 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm

This talk will reflect on the booming field of climate change litigation where States and corporations are increasingly held accountable for compromising the life opportunities of future generations through their ineffective climate action. These proceedings differ in their legal basis, the parties involved, the remedy claimed, and the courts where such actions are pursued at national and international levels. However, they also share some fundamental similarities, which will be the focus of this presentation. What are the most successful shared litigation strategies of plaintiffs, who are often children and young individuals, to claim protection for the future? What are the rights and interests of future generations that courts are willing to protect in the present? How could courts determine, in an objective way, what lies in the interests of posterity? Lastly, the talk will also comment on the role of climate ligation and inter-generational equity in challenging the short-term thinking inherent in our democratic decision-making model.

Dr. Katalin Sulyok is Assistant Professor in International Law and Environmental Law at ELTE Eötvös Lorand University, Budapest. Dr Sulyok holds a Ph.D. in international law, a B.Sc. in Biology and an LL.M. degree from Harvard Law School. Between 2014-2021, she has been Chief of Staff and Chief Legal Advisor to the Ombudsman for Future Generations in Hungary.

Her research interests cover interdisciplinary questions of environmental and climate litigation. Her English-language PhD regarding the use of science in international environmental adjudication was awarded the Wheaton Prize by the International Law Institute and was published as a monograph by Cambridge University Press entitled “Science and Judicial Reasoning – The Legitimacy of International Environmental Adjudication”.

Recently, she been acting as a legal advisor in national and international climate litigation cases, including being an advisor to the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions, which intervened before the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to support the climate litigation claims of Portuguese children and those of Swiss senior women. Dr Sulyok is also a member of an expert panel advising EU decision-makers on the legal limits of Solar Radiation Modification, and a legal advisor to JESC, which works for creating a representative for future generations in the EU. She has been a founding member of a network of climate scientists and international lawyers working for translating climate science for international litigation.

Dr Sulyok has been visiting researcher at several leading research institutions, including the Max Planck Institute of International and Comparative Public Law in Heidelberg, Cambridge University, the Lauterpacht Centre, and Sorbonne University.

Professor Karin is a lecturer from CEU's Legal Studies Department. She is an expert regarding the interactions between different human rights systems and institutions with a focus on wider Europe, as well as in the translation of human rights standards into activities of business, trade, development cooperation and climate change. Her research focuses on human rights in the (digital) economy, sustainable supply chains and corporate accountability, and human rights in Europe with a focus on gender equality. She has been a consultant for various national and international organisations, such as the UN Development Programme, MIGA (World Bank Group) the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the World Wildlife Fund.

The lecture will be livestreamed