On June 1 President Donald Trump announced that he intends to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord. He did so against the advice of the leaders of major corporations, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his daughter Ivana. Several world leaders criticized the decision, which cannot take effect until November 2020 under the terms of the agreement. Only two other countries in the world have rejected the Paris Agreement - Nicaragua (on the ground that it is not strong enough) and Syria. In his statement announcing the withdrawal, President Trump falsely asserted that the agreement “punishes the United States . . . while imposing no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters.” He also falsely asserted that the Paris Agreement would cost the U.S. economy $3 trillion dollars in lost GDP and 6.5 million industrial jobs. In an effort to mollify some of his critics, Trump bizarrely announced that the U.S. would “begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris Accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.” World leaders promptly rejected any suggestion of renegotiating the Paris Accord. Several states, cities, corporations, and universities have pledged to work to achieve the U.S. goals in the Paris Accord for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions despite the federal government's withdrawal.
I spent the end of May and the first week of June at the 15th Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law, which was held in Cebu, Philippines. The Colloquium is the annual gathering of members of the Academy, a consortium of more than 200 law schools from 60 countries. More than 180 environmental law professors and students from 30 countries attended the Colloquium, which was hosted by the University of Cebu. The theme of this year’s colloquium was “Stories of the World We Want - and the Law as a Pathway.” Two of my students presented papers at the Colloquium. Rising 3L Shannon Himes presented a paper on “Expanding Marine Protected Areas to Mitigate Climate Change: A Comparison of Hawaii and the Philippines.” Her presentation incorporated photos she took the previous day while visiting Philippine marine protected areas. Rising 3L Kerri Morrison presented a paper on “National and Multinational Strategies for Radioactive Waste Disposal.” Kerri’s paper had been published in the Environmental Law Reporter (47 ELR 47300) in April 2017. I addressed a plenary session of the Colloquium on June 2 that focused on environmental success stories. I reviewed lessons that can be learned from the history of the successful global effort to phase out leaded gasoline. I also delivered remarks at the closing reception of the Colloquium, which was held in the historic 16th-century Fort San Pedro in Cebu City.
This year’s Colloquium featured keynote addresses from Philippine Supreme Court Justice Antonio T. Carpio and Philippine environmental activist Tony Oposa, Jr. as well as an opening reception hosted by Hilario Davide III, Governor of Cebu Province. Several professors from Southeast Asian law schools who participated in the Academy’s Training the Teachers (TTT) program also attended the Colloquium. Funded by a grant from the Asian Development Bank, the TTT program is helping hundreds of professors to develop competence in environmental law. In the past 12 months, TTT workshops have been held in China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Malaysia. During the next 12 months programs will be held in Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and Nepal. Maryland’s Environmental Law Partnership with Pace University’s Haub School of Law serves as the Secretariat for the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law.
On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an effort by property rights advocates to make it easier to claim a regulatory taking when regulations permit development on only one of two adjacent parcels of land held in common ownership. In Murr v. Wisconsin, the Court voted 5-3 that this did not constitute a regulatory taking requiring the government to compensate the property owner. The Court’s 5-3 majority opinion (with Justice Gorsuch not participating) was written by Justice Kennedy who emphasized the importance of taking a flexible and pragmatic approach to determining what constitutes the “parcel as a whole” in assessing the fairness of regulatory burdens. He agreed with the conclusion of Wisconsin courts that the adjacent parcels of land should be considered as one because they had the same owners. Otherwise there would be an incentive for what Kennedy called “strategic unbundling” of property rights to undermine the traditional “parcel as a whole” approach.