Mondial Article (Winter 2023)

Climate Change Lawsuits Around the World

Bill Pearce

Bill Pearce

Called to the bar in 1968 and has had a varied career as a barrister. He is currently retired and living in Victoria while continuing to serve as President of the World Federalist Movement — Canada Victoria branch.

This article will examine the explosion of climate change litigation around the world and its role in reducing the output of greenhouse gases (GHGs) which is endangering the survival of our species. In 2017 there were 884 climate change lawsuits brought in 24 countries. By July 2020 this number increased to at least 1,550 cases in 38 countries (Stefer 2023).

Some of these lawsuits seek compensation for damage inflicted by fossil fuel-associated global warming and related extreme weather events. The most recent example is the case where the state of California is suing the major oil producers for billions of dollars associated with their deceptive practice of spreading misinformation as to the role of burning fossil fuel in the warming of the planet (akin to the denial tactics of the tobacco industry of the connection between smoking and cancer). In their attempt to hold the oil giants accountable they are looking for substantial compensation with regard to the industry’s 2022 profits which exceeded 200 billion dollars, double their profits in 2021.

In Peru, an indigenous Peruvian farmer, Saul Luciano Lliuya, who lives below a melting glacier, seeks payment for damages to his property associated with excessive GHG warming of the planet proportionate to German energy giant RWE’s overall contribution to global climate change of 0.47%.

The great majority of climate change litigation is not for the recovery of money but is associated with attempts by state actors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or individuals to seek court orders to force fossil fuel-producing companies to reduce emissions or to force nation-states to set lower emission targets or take more stringent measures to achieve emission targets. Most of these lawsuits rely on human rights legislation which protects the right to life and security of the person. In addition, the right to a healthy environment is often invoked. Sadly, Canada is among one of the few remaining United Nations Member States that does not constitutionally protect the right to a healthy environment.

Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights enshrines the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right to not be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice. This section may provide a mechanism to constrain the government’s ability to engage in activities that potentially may cause environmental harm which endangers Section 7 rights; this makes the Charter the closest thing Canadians have to a constitutional right to a healthy environment.

Before reviewing some of the recent leading cases of climate change litigation, I wish to note that, for the most part, there is agreement amongst all the judges around the world that have tackled the subject that global warming is caused in large part by human-caused burning of fossil fuels and is the cause of the extreme events we are witnessing almost every day. From these cases, I am driven to the conclusion that the reason for the outburst of judicial activism in this field in recent years is the fear that state actors and human beings are not acting fast enough to reduce our use of fossil fuels.

When judges come to the conclusion that state actors can’t be trusted to do what is necessary they often step up to the plate to make things happen. An example of that can be found in Leghari v. Federation of Pakistan. Leghari, a Pakistani farmer, convinced a judge that the “delay and lethargy of the State in implementing the Framework” offended the “fundamental rights of the citizens” with the unusual result of the Court stepping into the shoes of the State to oversee the execution of the policy, with directions for certain Ministries to take specified action, and with the appointment of a Climate Change Commission. Following years of monitoring the assigned tasks, the Court dissolved the Commission on being satisfied that the desired actions had been taken.

On May 26, 2021, the District Court of the Hague handed down a historic judgment that represents a new understanding of corporate responsibility in regard to the harm caused by corporate burning of fossil fuels and the resultant contribution to climate change. The case was brought by a number of NGOs and 17,000 citizens against Royal Dutch Shell. The Court concluded that Shell has an obligation to achieve in their operations a net 45% emissions reduction by 2030 compared to 2019 levels, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement. The Court acknowledged “RDS cannot solve this global problem on its own. However, this does not absolve RDS from its individual responsibility to do its part regarding the emissions of the Shell group, which it can control and influence.” This case stands for the proposition that state responsibility to reduce emissions is shared by individual major emitters of GHGs. It is presently under appeal.

Duty of care in the Shell case is based on the foreseeability test; tortfeasors will be held liable for damages they should have foreseen and could have mitigated. The Court found that Shell knew enough to foresee the damage its emissions were likely to cause, the certainty of which became clearer as time went on. In addition, it found that the Shell Group’s current share of global emissions to be approximately 1%.

The Court acknowledged that human rights law does not define human rights obligations on companies but that there is universal agreement that companies are bound to respect human rights. The Court also relied heavily on the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which obliges businesses to “prevent or mitigate any adverse impacts related to their operations, products or services” amongst other things, including “the obligation to institute a policy commitment to meet the responsibility to respect human rights due diligence to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for their human impacts.” It is noteworthy in this regard that Canada’s Bill C-262, respecting corporate responsibility abroad, which had its first reading on March 29th, 2022, states in para 6(1) that every corporation has a duty to avoid causing any adverse impacts on human rights from occurring outside Canada”. The definition of human rights in the Bill includes “the right to a healthy environment.”

To exercise due care in fixing its corporate policy, Shell was required to take into account the best available science and the broad international consensus of the destructive character of climate change based upon the right to life and undisturbed family life (embodied in the European Human Rights Code) enjoyed by the citizens of the Netherlands. Had it done so it would have decreased its emissions which contributed to climate change. The Court found that Shell had a direct obligation to amend its corporate strategy accordingly and went further to state that it has a best-efforts obligation to bring down the carbon footprint of its customers.

The case built upon an earlier decision in the Urgenda case where a Dutch NGO and 886 citizens sought a mandatory order that the state had failed to take greater steps to reduce emissions than what was required. The Court ordered the government to cut its emissions by at least 25% by the end of 2020 compared to 1990 levels and in so doing became the first court in the world to do so. It concluded that the Court had the jurisdiction to assess whether the measures taken by the State are too little in view of what is clearly the lower limit of its share of the measures that need to be taken worldwide to address a dangerous change in climate. On Apr. 24, 2020, the Dutch government announced its plan to comply with the historic ruling of the Supreme Court which resulted in a complete transformation of climate change policies in the Netherlands, underlying the impact court decisions can have in global efforts to mitigate climate change.

The Urgenda case was relied upon in part in the Ontario case Mahur v. Ontario released on Apr. 14, 2023. The case concerned the alleged inadequacy of the Ontario emission targets. The Paris Agreement which Canada signed contemplates a 45% reduction of emissions below 2010 levels by 2030. This resulted in the passage of the Canadian Net Zero Emissions Accountability Act echoing the same commitment with the provinces passing their own equivalent legislation.

Mahur sought a court declaration that the Ontario target was inadequate based on the scientific consensus and the court found that “Ontario’s decision to limit its efforts to an objective that falls severely short of the scientific consensus as to what is required is sufficiently connected to the prejudice that will be suffered by the Applicants and Ontarians should global warming exceed 1.5 degrees C. by not taking steps to reduce GHG in the province further.” The court found that the Charter issues raised were generally justiciable, meaning that there was a sufficient legal component to warrant intervention of the judicial branch.

However, the Canadian Charter of Rights is not open- ended like the European Human Rights Code which gives state protection for citizens’ rights to life and security of the person. In Canada, every person enjoys the right not to be deprived of those rights by the state. Positive rights are only inferred in special circumstances. In the Mahur case the Court declined to make a ruling on the central issue as to whether Mahur had been deprived of his charter rights having decided that he failed to demonstrate the deprivation of his s 7 right was ‘contrary to the principles of fundamental justice’, another requirement in our Charter which is different than the European code.

While the Mahur case was unsuccessful at the first level, it nevertheless recognizes the catastrophic effects of climate change and made important findings that might be built upon in future cases which have more compelling facts. That should not be difficult if we take a close look at Canada’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan and the section on oil and gas. The reason we look here is that in 2019 the oil and gas sector accounted for 26% of the nation’s emissions and the oil sands were by far the largest emitter. The Reduction Plan lays out all the projected production levels for each component of the oil and gas sector. For the oil sands component, they forecast a 2020 production level of close to 2 million barrels per day (bbl/d) and for 2030 it is over 4 million bbl/d which works out to a 69% increase in production.

The Plan also contemplates an increase in conventional oil for the same period of 33% and a lesser increase in natural gas. But when you go to the table which shows the emission projections for the entire oil and gas sector the emissions are projected to increase by just 4.5% when comparing 2020 emission projections to 2030. How does the Canadian government think it is possible to permit production levels of the dirtiest oil on the planet to go up 69% and permit other parts of the sector to go up appreciably but hold the rise in emissions to a mere 4.5%? The only meaningful reduction measure the Reduction Plan talks about is “advancing” carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS). This is the sole ‘magic bullet’ the Plan touts, which the increased use of will allow the oil and gas sector to meet its 2030 target. But an S&P Global Commodity Insight report last fall warned the Canadian government that the oil sands sector may have to throttle back production by up to 1.3million bbl/d to reach emissions targets and that even with abatement measures, including CCUS, a reduction of 800,000 bbl/d will be necessary, which represents a reduction from 2020 levels of 37.3%, as compared to the projected 69.3% projected increase. There is a disconnect. Something more has to be done to make it happen.

Furthermore, Canada has heavily subsidized the CCUS project which former Minister Catherine McKeena said recently that “incredibly…the oil sand companies demand that Canadian taxpayers spend even more to subsidize their carbon capture projects”, to which I would note the Canadian government made a commitment in the Reduction Plan to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies altogether. A good starting point, if the government wants to be serious about meeting its targets, would be to declare an end to oil and gas subsidies altogether, and place a cap on oil sand production levels to be 37.3% below present levels.

Catherine McKenna points out the obvious that “time is running out”. She tells us UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres put it best when he said “investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness” and “Real action-and a hard cap on oil and gas emissions is needed now”. It is also time to regulate the industry to green up its products. A good start would be to mandate the use of green sources of energy to separate the oil from the sand. John Vaillant calculates that a full one-third of Canada’s natural gas production is used for that very purpose. Such action would not only take the industry a long way to meet its targets but would make its oil sand much more saleable in world markets as having a GHG equivalent to conventional sourced oil. As it stands, if operations do not change and the oil sands expand as projected the amount of natural gas used to separate the oil from the sand will exceed 50% of present production levels. That is simply immoral.

Thus far, the oil industry has been treated like a sacred cow and most of the major companies have jettisoned their projects to transition to renewables and have doubled down on increasing production. I think most people on this planet are of a different view — that the oil and gas industry has to curtail its quest for profit and be part of the solution to what the Canadian Supreme Court considers to be an “existential challenge”. Every person, including every corporation and every government body, has to pull together if we want this planet to be liveable for future generations. Fortunately, court decisions around the world have shown us that there will be consequences for perceived inaction. I have no doubt that the judicial systems around the world will play an important role in keeping all actors focused on what has to be done to meet 2030 and 2050 targets. The recent burst of judicial activism couldn’t have come at a better time.

Mondial Cover for Winter 2023

Mondial is published by the Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS) and World Federalist Movement — Canada (WFM-Canada), non-profit, non-partisan, and non-governmental Member Organizations of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Government Policy (WFM-IGP). Mondial seeks to provide a forum for diverse voices and opinions on topics related to democratic world federation. The views expressed by contributing authors herein do not necessarily reflect the organizational positions of CGS or WFM-Canada, or those of the Masthead membership.

Anthony Vance

Anthony Vance

Senior Representative, Bahá'ís of the U.S. Office of Public Affairs

Anthony oversees the development of the Bahá'ís of the United States Office of Public Affairs programs and strategic direction. He joined the office in 2010 after spending four years at the Baháʼí World Center in Haifa, Israel representing it to the diplomatic community, civil society, and parts of the host government. A lawyer by training, he spent 21 years in the U.S. Agency for International Development in legal and managerial positions in Washington, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Botswana, and Egypt. Anthony holds a B.A. in Economics, an MBA, and a J.D. from Harvard University.

Tanner Willis

Tanner Willis

Operations Officer

Tanner Willis has a master’s degree from United Nations Institute of Training and Research (UNITAR) in international affairs and diplomacy. During his time at UNITAR he has been part of two fellowships, one with Al Fusaic as an information and communication technology and international affairs fellow. Al Fusaic is a non-profit who aims to provide education and career advancement to promote peace and security in Southwest Asia and North African region. His second graduate fellowship was with the United Nations Association – National Capital Area (UNA-NCA). UNA-NCA advocates alongside UNA-USA for further partnership with the United States and the United Nations to achieve goals surrounding global issues and uphold the UN charter.

Tanner’s research experience focuses on how information & communications technology influences social and political dynamics with civil society and their relationship with governments. His experience will help CGS utilize digital technologies to promote CGS' mission in promoting peace, international law, and human rights in a responsible and ethical manner. 

In his spare time Tanner is an avid basketball fan of his home team of the University of Kentucky Wildcats. He has played, refereed, broadcasted, and coached basketball and enjoys all levels of the game. He also loves going to art museums, hiking, and traveling with his wife

Bruce Knotts

Bruce Knotts


Bruce Knotts was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia, worked for Raytheon in Saudi Arabia (1976-80) and on a World Bank contract in Somalia (1982-4), before he joined the Department of State as a U.S. diplomat in 1984. Bruce had diplomatic assignments in Greece, Zambia, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire and The Gambia, where he served as Deputy Chief of Mission. While in Cote d’Ivoire, Bruce served as the Regional Refugee Coordinator for West Africa. Bruce worked closely with several UN Special Representatives and observed UN peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone from 2000-2003. Bruce retired from the Foreign Service in 2007 and began directing the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) in 2008. Bruce founded faith-based advocacy for sexual orientation/gender identity human rights at the United Nations and continues to advocate for the rights of women, indigenous peoples and for sustainable development in moral terms of faith and values. Bruce is co-chair of the UN NGO Committee on Human Rights, the chair of the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security, a member of steering committee of the NGO UN Security Council Working Group. Bruce retired from the UUA September 30, 2022. Bruce is currently the UN representative of the International Convocation of Unitarian Universalist Women. In 2006, Bruce and Isaac Humphrie were wed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

James Lowell May

James Lowell May

Program Officer

James May is a programme and project development specialist. He has lived in Serbia since 2005, and prior to joining Citizens for Global Solutions, worked across the Western Balkans on a broad range of issues including human, minority and child rights, accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Holocaust commemoration, democratic participation, social justice and economic empowerment, and environmental restoration.

James began working in the Western Balkans on issues related to accountability for human rights violations, first for the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, a coalition of NGOs active in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, as the network’s development coordinator, then the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, leading a research project documenting the nomenclatural of the Milosevic Regime, and then the Federation of Jewish Communities in Serbia, running a Holocaust research and education project.

James then transitioned from accountability to efforts to protect and fulfil the rights of marginalised communities. For a decade James worked for the Centre for Youth Integration, an NGO that provides specialized services for children and youth in street situations in Belgrade, where he began as a volunteer before taking up a permanent role, while concurrently volunteering for community mental health organizations, as well as consultancy work for a number of local and international organizations, and most recently branched out to apply his experience to the environmental sector, focussing on social impact assessments and community-oriented nature-based solutions projects.

James has a degree in Archaeology from University College London. He was born and grew up in Great Britain. He is an avid cyclist.

Honorable David J. Scheffer

Honorable David J. Scheffer

Former U.S. Ambassador

Amb. David J. Scheffer is senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), with a focus on international law and international criminal justice. Scheffer was the Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law (2006-2020) and is Director Emeritus of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. He is Professor of Practice at Arizona State University (Washington offices). He was Vice-President of the American Society of International Law (2020-2022) and held the International Francqui Professorship at KU Leuven in Belgium in 2022. From 2012 to 2018 he was the UN Secretary-General’s Special Expert on UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, and he was the Tom A. Bernstein Genocide Prevention Fellow working with the Ferencz International Justice Initiative at the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (2019-2021).

During the second term of the Clinton Administration (1997-2001), Scheffer was the first ever U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues and led the U.S. delegation to the UN talks establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). He signed the Rome Statute of the ICC on behalf of the United States on December 31, 2000. He negotiated the creation of five war crimes tribunals: the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, and the ICC. He chaired the Atrocities Prevention Inter-Agency Working Group (1998-2001). During the first term of the Clinton Administration (1993-1997), Scheffer served as senior advisor and counsel to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr. Madeleine Albright, and he served on the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council. Ambassador Scheffer received an A.B. (Government and Economics) from Harvard College, B.A. (Honour School of Jurisprudence) from Oxford University (where he was a Knox Fellow), and LL.M. (International and Comparative Law) from Georgetown University Law Center.

Alex Andrei

Alex Andrei

Director of Technology and Design

Alex is an experienced professional in designing digital products, managing online applications, and providing IT consulting services. Their background is in working with online applications design, digital accessibility, learning management platforms, user experience and interface design for online and mobile applications. They have over 10 years of experience working with higher-education institutions, nonprofits, and business.

He believes that in today’s rapidly evolving landscape, organizations need to adapt and thrive in the digital realm to gain a competitive edge and be as successful as they can be. Alex specializes in supporting organizations in their digital transformation initiatives and creating effective user experiences and driving efficiency through technology to empower people.

As Director of Technology and Design, Alex focuses on identifying opportunities to integrate various technologies in ongoing operations and new initiatives at CGS to support programs, partners, and team members in achieving their goals.

Alex has a passion strategically leveraging cutting edge technologies to maximize the value of what can be done with limited resources to create a lasting impact and great experiences for people.

Jon Kozesky

Jon Kozesky

Director of Development 

Jon brings over 17 years of experience in development and fundraising in both the public and private sectors.  He started his career in politics working in the Ohio Statehouse and later in the office of U.S. Congressman Steven LaTourette, as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. After leaving Capitol Hill, Jon pursued his passion of helping nonprofits secure the resources they needed to best serve their constituents. This passion led to his founding of Jon Thomas Consulting, a boutique nonprofit management and development firm serving organizations across the United States and throughout the world in streamlining their processes and maximizing their revenue growth through grant writing, government affairs, donor stewardship, and major event planning.

Prior to his fundraising career, Jon proudly served his community as a firefighter and water rescue diver. In his personal time, Jon is a champion competitive sailor and a bit of a thrill-seeker, having skydived and bungee jumped on 6 continents.

Jacopo Demarinis

Social Media & Communications Coordinator

Jacopo De Marinis is a 2022 graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he majored in Public Policy and Law, and is pursuing a career in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. While studying at UIUC, he co-founded a student chapter of Chicago Area Peace Action, CAPA UIUC, and spearheaded student campaigns for climate justice, justice for Black farmers, and a Chicago Department of Peacebuilding. He currently sits on the boards of Anne's Haven, a Chicago community-based organization dedicated to women's empowerment, and Chicago Area Peace Action. Jacopo has published articles on topics including conflict diplomacy, US-China relations, and United Nations reform in CounterPunch, Countercurrents, the LA Progressive, and on the Nepal Institute for International Cooperation and Engagement's website, among others. Jacopo joined the CGS team in September of 2022, as he strongly believes that stronger global governance and UN reform is necessary if we are to realize a more peaceful and just world.

Marvin Perry

Accounting Manager

Marvin has been working in the areas of HIV/AIDS, international peace and human rights. He has worked with both national and international non-profits in the DC area. Marvin brings years of experience in non-profit finance and administration. Marvin is a certified human resources professional and holds an MBA from Howard University School of Business.

Peter Orvetti

Communications Consultant

Peter Orvetti is an editor and political analyst who has spent most of his career providing daily intelligence briefings for the White House across four presidential administrations, as well as multiple Cabinet agencies, trade associations, and Fortune 500 companies. He is the author of several “Young People’s Guides” to various U.S. federal elections and is a former daily columnist for NBC Universal’s Washington, D.C., website.

He has been involved with CGS and other world federalist organizations for more than a decade and publishes the daily “One World Digest” email newsletter. He is also a theater reviewer and an actor in both professional and amateur productions.

Drea Bergman

Director of Programs

Drea Bergman has been shaping world citizens developing global youth programs as Director of Programs for CGS. She is a public policy researcher with master’s degrees from Maastricht Graduate School of Governance and the United Nations University-MERIT (Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology). She specializes in evidenced-based public policy programs using mixed-methods research and has focused especially on spearheading digital transformation for a variety of NGOs and foundations. Some of her other projects have included research in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. More recently, she has lent her expertise by providing strategic planning for social enterprise start-ups.

Bob Flax

CGS Education Fund President

Bob Flax, Ph.D. is the former Executive Director of Citizens for Global Solutions (now retired). He has spent a lifetime addressing human suffering, first as a psychologist, then as an organization development consultant, and for more than a decade, as a global activist through the World Federalist Movement. He also teaches in the Transformative Social Change Program at Saybrook University.

Bob has a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy from New York University (1977), an M.A. in Psychology from Long Island University (1980), a Ph.D. in Psychology from Saybrook Institute (1992), an M.A. in Organization Development from Sonoma State University (2007), a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University (2015) and a Diploma in Global Leadership at the UN Peace University in Costa Rica (2019).

Bob’s love of adventure has led him to international trekking, scuba diving, and climbing the tallest mountains on 3 continents. He also maintains a Buddhist meditation practice and lives in a co-housing community in Northern California.

Rebecca A. Shoot

Executive Director

Rebecca A. Shoot is an international lawyer and democracy and governance practitioner with more than 15 years of experience in the non-governmental, inter-governmental, and private sectors supporting human rights, democratic processes, and the rule of law on five continents.

In nearly a decade with the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Rebecca held numerous positions in headquarters and the field supporting and leading democracy and governance programs in Central and Eastern Europe and Southern and East Africa. She subsequently moved to a leadership role steering NDI’s Governance projects globally and directing programming for the bipartisan House Democracy Partnership of the U.S. House of Representatives. Rebecca created a global parliamentary campaign for Democratic Renewal and Human Rights as Senior Advisor to Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), an international network of legislators committed to collaboration to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Prior to that, she directed PGA’s International Law and Human Rights Programme and ran PGA’s office in The Hague. Most recently, she helmed global programming to promote gender equality and criminal justice reform for the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI).

Rebecca has spoken at high-level conferences and events on five continents (and increasingly, globally through online platforms). Her publications include the first Global Parliamentary Report (IPU & UNDP 2012), Political Parties in Democratic Transitions (DIPD 2012), and Navigating between Scylla and Charybdis: How the International Criminal Court Turned Restraint Into Power Play (Emory Int’l L. Rev. 2018), which was honored with the Emory International Law Review’s Founder’s Award for Excellence in Legal Research and Writing.

Rebecca is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and is a member of several bar associations, including the American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA), where she serves as Advocacy Director for the International Criminal Court (ICC) Committee. She served as a Visiting Professional in the Presidency of the ICC and has provided pro bono legal expertise to The Carter Center, International Refugee Assistance Project, United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, and U.S. Marine Corps University, where she helped develop the international humanitarian law curriculum.

Rebecca earned a Juris Doctorate with Honors from Emory University School of Law, where she received several academic distinctions, including the David J. Bederman Fellowship in International Law and Conley-Ingram Scholarship for Public Interest Leadership. She earned a Master of Science in Democracy & Democratisation from University College London School of Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts Magna Cum Laude in Political Science from Kenyon College. She holds certificates in Conflict Analysis from the U.S. Institute of Peace and in Public International Law from The Hague Academy of International Law.

As Executive Director of CGS, Rebecca will continue her current role as Co-Convener of the Washington Working Group for the International Criminal Court (WICC), a diverse coalition of human rights organizations, legal associations, former government officials, and leading legal professionals. CGS and WICC have a rich and intertwined history that this dual appointment brings full circle, with CGS formerly serving as host for the coalition and with several current and former common Board and National Advisory Committee members.

She also acts, directs, and writes for the theater.

Helen Caldicott

Physician, Author, and Speaker

Helen Caldicott is a physician, author, and anti-nuclear advocate. She founded several associations dedicated to opposing the use of nuclear power, depleted uranium munitions, nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons proliferation, and military action in general. In 1980, she founded the Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND), which was later renamed Women’s Action for New Directions. In 2008, she founded the Helen Caldicott Foundation for a Nuclear Free Future.

Blanche Wiesen Cook

Blanche Wiesen Cook

Professor, Author, and Historian

Blanche Wiesen Cook is a Distinguished Professor of History and Women’s Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. She is author of a three-volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, as well as The Declassified Eisenhower: A Divided Legacy of Peace and Political Warfare.

David Cortright

Author, Activist, and Leader

David Cortright is director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and chair of the Board of the Fourth Freedom Forum. In 1977, Cortright was named the executive director of he Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy (SANE), which under his direction became the largest disarmament organization in the U.S. Cortright initiated the 1987 merger of SANE and the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign and served for a time as co-director of the merged organization. In 2002, he helped to found the Win Without War coalition in opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

He is the author or co-editor of 19 books including Waging Peace in Vietnam: U.S. Soldiers and Veterans Who Opposed the WarGandhi and Beyond: Nonviolence for a New Political Age, and Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas.

Andrea Cousins

Andrea Cousins

Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, and Anthropologist

Andrea Cousins is a psychologist and psychoanalyst who has practiced for more than 30 years. She has a doctorate in anthropology from Harvard University and a Doctor of Psychology degree from the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. Her father, journalist and peace activist Norman Cousins, served as president of the World Federalist Association and chairman of the Committee for Sane Nuclear Policy, and was honored with recognitions including the United Nations Peace Medal.

Gary Dorrien

Gary Dorrien

Professor, Author, Social Ethicist

Gary Dorrien is the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion at Columbia University. An Episcopal priest, he has taught as the Paul E. Raither Distinguished Scholar at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and as Horace De Y. Lentz Visiting Professor at Harvard Divinity School. He is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America’s Religion and Socialism Commission and the author of 18 books on ethics, social theory, philosophy, theology, politics, and intellectual history.

Daniel Ellsberg

Lecturer, Writer, and Activist

Daniel Ellsberg is a political activist and former military analyst. While employed by the RAND Corporation, Ellsberg precipitated a national political controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of the U.S. government decision-making in relation to the Vietnam War, to The New York Times, The Washington Post and other newspapers.

Since the end of the Vietnam War, Ellsberg has continued his political activism, giving lecture tours and speaking out about current events. Ellsberg was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2006. In 2018, he was awarded the 2018 Olof Palme Prize for his “profound humanism and exceptional moral courage.”

Oscar Andrew Hammerstein

Oscar Andrew Hammerstein

Painter, Writer, Lecturer, and Historian

Oscar Andrew Hammerstein is a painter, writer, and lecturer. He has taught graduate-level courses on New York theatre history and general musical theatre history as an adjunct professor at Columbia University. He is the author of The Hammersteins: A Musical Theatre Family.

Randy Kehler

Randy Kehler

Pacifist Activist

Randy Kehler is a pacifist activist who served 22 months in prison for returning his draft card in 1969 and refusing to seek exemption as a conscientious objector, seeing that as a form of cooperation with the Vietnam war effort. He played a key role in persuading Daniel Ellsberg to release the Pentagon Papers, and later served as executive director of the National Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. Kehler and his wife Betsy Corner refused to pay taxes for military expenditures, resulting in the federal seizure of their Massachusetts home in 1989. They continue to withhold their federal income taxes.

Gordon Orians

Gordon Orians


Gordon Orians, an ornithologist and ecologist for more than half a century, has focused his work on behavioral ecology and the relationships between ecology and social organization, as well as on the interface between science and public policy. He was director of the University of Washington Seattle’s Institute for Environmental Studies for a decade and has also served on the Board of Directors of the World Wildlife Fund and on state boards of the Nature Conservancy and Audubon.

Orians was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1989 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1990.

William Pace

International Organizer

William Pace was the founding convenor of the Coalition for an International Criminal Court (ICC) and a co-founder of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect. He has been engaged in international justice, rule of law, environmental law, and human rights for four decades, serving as executive director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy, secretary-general of the Hague Appeal for Peace, director of the Center for the Development of International Law, and director of Section Relations of the Concerts for Human Rights Foundation at Amnesty International, among other roles. He is the recipient of the William J. Butler Human Rights Medal from the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the ICC.

James T. Ranney

Professor, International Legal Consultant, and Author

James T. Ranney is an adjunct professor of international law at Widener Law School. He co-founded the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center in Montana and served as a legal consultant to the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. He has written extensively on the abolition of nuclear weapons and the establishment of international dispute resolution mechanisms.

Rick Ulfik

Rick Ulfik

The Founder of WE, The World, and the WE Campaign

Rick Ulfik is the founder of We, The World, an international coalition-building organization whose Mission is to maximize social change globally. He and his organization work closely with the New York Center for Nonviolent Communication, where he has been a facilitator since 2004. He is also the co-creator of the annual 11 Days of Global Unity - 11 Ways to Change the World, September 11-21.

He is an award-winning composer and keyboard player who has written, arranged, produced and orchestrated music for television networks, feature films, commercials, and albums. He has performed with Queen Latifah, Phoebe Snow, Carlos Santana, Bernadette Peters, and Judy Collins.

John Stowe


John Stowe is the Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky. He is a member of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, a mendicant religious order founded by Francis of Assisi. In 2015, Pope Francis appointed Stowe bishop of the Diocese of Lexington. He is the Episcopal President of the U.S. board of Pax Christi, an international Catholic Christian peace movement with a focus on human rights, disarmament, nonviolence, and related issues.

Barbara Smith

Author, Activist, and Scholar

Barbara Smith has played a significant role in Black feminism in the U.S. for more than 50 years. She taught at numerous colleges and universities for 25 years and has been published in a wide range of publications including The New York Times Book ReviewMs.Gay Community NewsThe Village Voice, and The Nation.

Among her many honors are the African American Policy Forum Harriet Tubman Lifetime Achievement Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Stonewall Award for Service to the Lesbian and Gay Community. In 2014, SUNY Press published Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith.

William J. Ripple

Conservationist, Author, and Professor

William J. Ripple is a Distinguished Professor of Ecology in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University. He has published two books and has authored more than 200 scientific journal articles on topics including conservation, ecology, wildlife, and climate change. He was the co-lead author on the 2020 paper “The World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency,” which was endorsed by more than 14,000 scientist signatories from around the world. He is the director of the Alliance of World Scientists, which has approximately 26,000 scientist members from 180 countries.

Mark Ritchie

President, Global Minnesota

Mark Ritchie is Chair of Minnesota's World Fair Bid Committee Educational Fund. From 2019 - 2022 he served as president of Global Minnesota, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization devoted to advancing international understanding and engagement. Ritchie was Minnesota's elected Secretary of State from 2007 to 2015. Since leaving elected public service, he has led the public-private partnership working to bring a world exposition (World's Fair) to Minnesota and he has served on the board of directors for LifeSource, Communicating for America, U.S. Vote Foundation, and Expo USA. He is also a national advisory board member of the federal Election Assistance Commission, where he serves as National Secretary.


Kim Stanley Robinson


Kim Stanley Robinson is the author of many works of science fiction, including the internationally bestselling Mars trilogy, and more recently Red Moon, New York 2140, and The Ministry for the Future. His work has been translated into 25 languages, and won awards including the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. In 2016, asteroid 72432 was named “Kimrobinson.”

Leila Nadya Sadat

Special Advisor to the ICC Chief Prosecutor, Professor, Author

Leila Sadat is the James Carr Professor of International Criminal Law at Washington University School of Law and the director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute. She is an internationally recognized expert on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and served as Special Advisor on Crimes Against Humanity to Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of the ICC. She is also the director of the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative, a multi-year project to study the problem of crimes against humanity and draft a comprehensive convention addressing their punishment and prevention. She is a former member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, served as the Alexis de Tocqueville Distinguished Fulbright Chair at the University of Cergy-Pontoise in Paris, and is the author of several books.

Martin Sheen

Martin Sheen

Actor, Activist, and Leader

Martin Sheen is an Emmy Award-winning and Golden Globe Award-winning actor who has worked with directors including Francis Ford Coppola and Oliver Stone, in addition to starring as the U.S. president on the long-running television drama “The West Wing.” In his early days as a struggling actor in New York, he met activist Dorothy Day, beginning his lifelong commitment to social justice.

The self-described pacifist was an early opponent of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and has been a consistent opponent of nuclear arms. As honorary mayor of Malibu, California in 1989, he declared the city a nuclear-free zone. Nearly 20 years later, Sheen was arrested during a protest at the Nevada Test Site. Sheen said in 2009 that he had been arrested 66 times for acts of civil disobedience, leading one activist to declare Sheen to have “a rap sheet almost as long as his list of film credits.”

Sheen has also been active in anti-genocide and pro-immigrant causes, as well as in the environmental movement. In 2010, he told a crowd of young people, “While acting is what I do for a living, activism is what I do to stay alive.” In a 1963 episode of “The Outer Limits,” he portrayed a future astronaut wearing a large breast patch that read “UE. Unified Earth.”