"I had been a legal advisor in the United Nations climate negotiations for nearly 30 years – but that Tuesday I decided it was time to join those who had decided to break the law."
Farhana Yamin is an internationally recognized environmental lawyer, climate change and development policy expert. She has advised leaders and ministers on climate negotiations for 30 years, representing small islands and developing countries and attending nearly every major climate summit since 1991. In addition to founding Track 0, she is an Associate Fellow at Chatham House, a Senior Advisor to SYSTEMIQ and an FRSA. She was voted Number 2 on the 2020 BBC’s Power List with the judges describing her a “powerhouse of climate justice” and is active in numerous community-based social initiatives in Camden. From 2013- 2018, she was an Advisor to the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and has been Deputy Chair of the Expert Group of Advisors to the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a coalition of 48 of the world’s most vulnerable countries, that played a key role in the 2015 Paris Agreement negotiations. She is widely credited with getting the goal of net-zero emissions by mid-century into the Paris Agreement through strategic communications and behind the scenes coalition-building. She has worked in private philanthropy as well as published numerous books and articles on the climate change law & social justice.
For three decades, the British environmental lawyer worked on international climate treaties, representing small island states. But in 2018, spurred by the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the urgent need to reduce global warming, she joined the protest action group Xtinction Rebellion and became one of its leaders. In a passionate and polemical essay, Farhana describes why “law-makers” such as herself must become “law-breakers”: “Litigation takes more time than we have, given the urgency of the climate crisis – especially when companies with deep pockets drag out cases every step of the way”. She believes that no legal results will “deliver the transformational changes we need in the next few years unless and until they are accompanied by people also breaking the law – as part of a mass ‘movement of movements’ based on peaceful civil disobedience.” Farhana also looks back, critically, at her own years in the negotiating rooms: “For decades, we helped define climate change as a technical-managerial problem that would be solved by getting the best scientific and economic minds to write reports that would persuade governments to act in the long-term interests of their citizens. But we left three critical elements out of the equation: mobilizing people, respecting their human rights, and restoring nature.”