Global Climate Legal Defense Network

What Is Legal Defense for the Climate Movement?

CliDef is a new global network that raises money for climate defense and rapidly directs that money to the lawyers and legal organizations on the ground who can protect and defend the individuals, movements, and organizations in the greatest legal peril, while connecting those defenders to expert legal support.

CliDef deploys money and human resources to:

  • Enable critical “anchor organizations” to take preventative and reactive legal action, as well as file affirmative cases on behalf of climate movements in their regions;
  • Build the bench by expanding and diversifying the cadre of lawyers prepared to represent climate defenders;
  • Connect climate defenders in legal trouble with the lawyers they need (and pay for the lawyers too);
  • Provide rapid response grants to organizations representing climate defenders in urgent or time-sensitive legal proceedings.

Current Context & Priorities

Fossil fuel companies are increasingly threatened by climate advocacy yet more empowered by their own enormous profit margins. In this toxic environment, they have heightened their attacks against those who challenge the source of their extraordinary power. Oil and gas companies are increasingly weaponizing law and litigation against scientists, NGOs, activists, journalists and protestors alike.

Until those who fight for a safer future have lawyers to fight for them, the struggle for a 1.5 degree world will be lopsided, and the players with the best lawyers will win.

The Global Climate Defense Network (CliDef), which funds and deploys lawyers and legal strategies to support the climate movement, aims to level the playing field. No more will big oil and gas companies be able to intimidate climate defenders into silence by suing them, threatening them with steep civil and criminal penalties, or incentivizing police to arrest them with the expectation that they will be without legal resources.

While everyone who fights for the climate is potentially in the crosshairs of the fossil fuel industry, CliDef is specifically focused on those willing to risk the most. Given the climate youth movements’ higher risk tolerance and greater vulnerability, CliDef is prioritizing legal support to youth activists for the rest of the year.

Providing legal support to those who protect and defend the climate is not a luxury. And, with a cadre of lawyers ready to defend the climate movement and go toe-to-toe with industry attorneys, the financial support going to climate justice work can finally mitigate the risks of challenging the power of the oil and gas industry.

Join Us

Since 2021, the Equation Campaign has funded lawyers for people fighting pipelines and other fossil fuel projects running through their farms and sacred lands in the US, in places like Nebraska, Minnesota, Virginia, Louisiana and Texas, and this legal support has enabled them to keep fighting.

It’s not enough. Oil and gas companies across the globe have realized how powerful law can be in neutralizing their opponents–by putting people in jail, by suing them for massive damages, by waging an unequal legal war against those without lawyers or legal defense funding. Thus, CliDef  was born.

CliDef steps in wherever climate defenders are at risk of legal action by the fossil fuel industry or by the state.

Led by lawyers from the Global South, CliDef uses lawyers and the law to

  • Protect climate defenders from legal bullying and harassment
  • Prevent the systematic policies and practices that stop the climate movement from doing its crucial work
  • Reveal the misuse of corporate and state power in advancing climate injustice and
  • Redress the harm done by the fossil fuel industry as it attacks climate defenders.

Working with other climate funders, CliDef is able to deploy resources exactly where they are needed most: Matching defenders with lawyers and legal organizations ready to defend them; mapping “hot spots” where repressive laws need to be challenged or where defenders face imminent threats; supporting affirmative suits challenging systemic injustices aimed at silencing the climate movement; and building the capacity of young lawyers willing to serve but need additional training and mentorship.

CliDef protects the investment of climate funders by paving the way for climate defenders to challenge the fossil fuel industry safely. When climate defenders face legal risks, CliDef has their backs.

Who We Are

Alfred Brownell

CliDef is a new legal network with Goldman Prize winner and eminent Liberian environmental lawyer Alfred Brownell as its Founding Director.

CliDef’s inaugural partner organizations include:

  • ELAW: Global
  • Green Advocates: Liberia and West Africa
  • Climate Litigation Accelerator (CLX): S. America, India, Youth focus
  • Coalition Against Slapps in Europe (CASE): Europe
  • Center for Protest Law & Litigation: US
  • Parents for Future Global: Global
  • EarthRights Amazon: Amazon
  • Community Resource Center: Thailand
  • Center for Transnational Corporate Accountability: China

And its inaugural funders include:

  • Equation Campaign (Startup Funder and Incubator)
  • FILE
  • Open Society Foundations
  • Rockefeller Brothers' Fund
  • Sunrise Project
  • Tara
  • Anonymous Donors