First student-led Climate Clinic launched to help combat crisis

Friday 27 January 2023

RGU's Climate Clinic opening
Robert Gordon University (RGU) has officially opened its new Climate Clinic to offer support to North East communities through climate breakdown and the biodiversity crisis.

It is the first dedicated student-led clinic of its kind in Scotland to be run in association with the Environmental Law Foundation and aims to reduce the access to justice gap at grassroots level in relation to matters of planning, development, environment, and animal law.

The new initiative follows last year’s successful launch of the Grampian Community Law Centre and is the second connected clinic alongside the Community Clinic which is embedded within Torry Medical Practice.

Already in operation and assisting with ongoing cases across the region, the new clinic is based from RGU’s Law School in the Riverside Building of its Garthdee campus.

Hannah Moneagle, Director of the Grampian Community Law Centre, Practising Solicitor and RGU Lecturer, and the mastermind behind the Climate Clinic, said: “The Climate Clinic plays on my strengths as a former planning lawyer, and passionate climate activist, environmentalist, and animal lawyer.

“Through my own experience and interests, it became clear to me that there is a huge void in access to legal support for people at grassroots level who may be particularly impacted by issues in these areas of law.  We cannot ignore climate breakdown, and the Clinic gives both me and my Student Advisors the opportunity to do something positive to try to make a difference.” 

The official opening coincided with World Environmental Education Day (January 26) which raises awareness about environmental issues both globally and locally, particularly related to the need for participation to help conserve and protect the planet.

Steve Olivier, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of RGU, said: "RGU is delighted to officially launch the Climate Clinic as part of the Grampian Law Community Centre and is privileged to be able to rely on the expertise and contributions of valued partners and stakeholders. 

“We are incredibly proud of our Law School students who are leading this vital service in delivering and promoting sustainable outcomes against climate change impact throughout the region."

Well-known nature photographer, author and BBC television presenter, Chris Packham CBE, also lent his support to the Climate Clinic opening. He said: “We are in a climate and environment emergency so the fact that the Grampian Community Law Centre has launched a ground-breaking Climate Clinic is a very positive step indeed.

“This will serve to give people access to justice and a voice in local issues which affect communities and the future of the planet. I offer my support and wish the students well with this great endeavour.”

Current cases include working with the Friends of St Fittick's Park community group who are campaigning to save St. Fittick’s Park in Torry, and a large research project investigating compliance with certain aspects of Scottish planning law on behalf of Planning Democracy. 

Maggie Chapman MSP added: "The launch of the Climate Clinic in Aberdeen provides an exciting opportunity for our community. Knowledge around planning, development, environmental and animal welfare law is too often inaccessible to those who need it most. It can be daunting when challenging powerful corporate and special interests.

“We've seen this locally with the Save St Fittick's Park campaign, an important campaign that has already used some of the services provided by those involved in establishing the Climate Clinic. Environmental justice must be available and accessible to all. I look forward to working with the Climate Clinic to ensure that this is the case."

The new clinic has taken a collaborative approach and boasts support and partnerships with a host of agencies and charities, such as the UK Centre for Animal Law, the Environmental Rights Centre for Scotland, Planning Democracy, Stop Ecocide International, and more.

Thursday evening’s opening event included hearing about ongoing projects in the Climate Clinic and the impact that these have had on both the students and clients involved.

Image: RGU students and Climate Clinic Student Advisers (L-R) Rebecca Petrie, Steven McIntyre, Calum Graham and Eilidh Stewart behind Hannah Moneagle, Director of the Grampian Community Law Centre; and Steve Olivier, RGU's Principal and Vice-Chancellor.

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