James Thornton is an authority on the power of the law to create change and the founder of ClientEarth, a nonprofit law firm using advocacy and litigation to address the climate crisis.

Why you should listen

James Thornton has dedicated his life to fighting for climate and environmental justice. In 2007, he launched ClientEarth, sparking fundamental change in the way environmental protections are made and enforced across Europe. Now operating globally, ClientEarth uses advocacy, litigation and research to address the greatest challenges of our time -- including nature loss, human health and social justice. In the last decade alone, his work has shaped an EU-wide law banning illegally harvested rainforest timber, won numerous cases against governments for failing to tackle air pollution and blocked the largest coal plant in Europe. He and his team of not-for-profit lawyers use the most effective tool in the arsenal for change: the law.

The New Statesman named Thornton as one of 10 people who could change the world. The Lawyer picked him as one of the top 100 lawyers in the UK and he was named as one of the 1,000 most influential people in London. He has won Leader of the Year at the Business Green Awards three times, was awarded Charity Leader of the Year in 2020 and is shortlisted again in 2021. He is also a published author, poet and ordained Zen Buddhist priest.

James Thornton’s TED talk