On January 24 I attended a meeting of the directors of environmental law programs that was convened by the UCLA School of Law. There were more than 30 representatives of approximately two dozen U.S. law schools present at the meeting. At the meeting we discussed recent developments in our programs and how to improve the education of future environmental lawyers. A similar meeting was hosting by UCLA in April 2006. There seemed to be a strong sense that the global climate crisis was making environmental law a hot field once again. UCLA announced that they just received a donation with a matching gift challenge totaling $10 million to set up a new Center on Climate Change and the Environment. The gift will enable UCLA School of Law to establish a new endowed chair for an environmental law professor. Several schools indicated that they are hiring additional environmental law professors. There was surprisingly little discussion of global environmental law initiatives by the schools, aside from a few that already are well known.
On January 25 the UCLA Law Review hosted a climate change conference that I attended. It featured some terrific presentations, including a panel that featured California Air Resources Board (CARB) chairman Mary Nichols, who discussed the state’s ambitious plans to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. She explained how the state already has done so much to promote energy efficiency that there is not nearly as much “low hanging fruit” available. I know Mary from long ago when I was an attorney for Environmental Defense and she was a member of our board of directors. I spoke with her after her presentation and she told me that both Senators Clinton and Obama have pledged to reverse EPA’s veto of the state’s regulations to control GHG emissions from motor vehicles. During the Republican presidential debate on January 30, all four of the Republican candidates stated that they favored a reversal of EPA's decision. While at UCLA I thought about how different my career might have been if I had accepted their law school’s offer of a faculty position in 1981 when Bill Warren was their dean and I was finishing my clerkship with Justice White. I instead opted to join Environmental Defense because I felt strongly that it was important to gain experience in practice before embarking on a teaching career. As a result I was able to develop expertise in environmental law.
On January 23 the European Commission unveiled its proposed country-by-country targets for achieving its commitments to reduce overall GHG emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels and to produce 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The “Climate Action and Renewable Energy Package” proposes a 10 percent reduction below 2005 levels of GHG emissions from transport, housing, agriculture, and waste - sectors not currently included in the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS). Proposed national emissions targets vary by country with the richer countries, such as Denmark, required to cut GHG emissions by 20% below 2005 levels and poorer countries, such as Romania and Bulgaria, allowed to increase their emissions by 20 percent. It is estimated that the overall cost of complying with these targets will be approximately $90 billion, about 0.5% of total EU GDP, but that they will prevent damage nearly ten times greater than the cost. The proposal also provides for a transition to auctioning emissions allowances that currently are being distributed for free. Details of the package are available online at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/climate_action.htm
On January 31, more than 1,700 schools and universities throughout the U.S. hosted a "Focus the Nation" national “teach-in” focusing on the global climate crisis. The event was the brainchild of economics professor Eban Goodstein from Lewis & Clark College in Portland. Students from the University of Maryland School of Law organized one of the most comprehensive programs held at any law school in the U.S. The event opened at 9:30am with a keynote address from Shari Wilson, Maryland’s Secretary of the Environment. The conference, which drew a large audience, featured a variety of panels, running until 5pm, that focused on how law, science and technology can contribute to solving the global climate crisis. Videos of each of the panel presentations made at the event are available online at:
I did not participate in the law school event because I was serving as the keynote speaker at the University of Maryland-College Park’s “Focus the Nation” program. Following my keynote, the College Park program featured panels on the ecologic, economic, and political dimensions of the climate crisis, a panel on citizen action, a green fair, and a movie presentation that ran until 9pm in the evening. See http://www.focusthenation.umd.edu/schedule.html. At the event I met some of College Park’s climate scientists, who among other things are tracing global pollution plumes. They noted that they had been studying through air sampling in the upper atmosphere pollution plumes produced by China that can be traced all the way to California. However, they noted that it is difficult to detect pollution plumes from India, which they attributed to its lower level of economic activity.