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Making a Difference: ELI in Action

ELI has a proud record of making law work for people, places, and the planet for nearly 50 years. Here we highlight some of our more recent accomplishments with regard to environmental law, policy, and protection.

ELI 50thCelebrating ELI’s Golden Anniversary
The Environmental Law Institute turns 50 this December. Throughout 2019, ELI is reflecting back on how we have helped shape environmental law and governance while looking ahead to an even more impactful future. In commemoration of our 50th anniversary, ELI is offering special events, programs, and publications on key issues that have been, and will continue to be, central to our work. Recent monthly themes include Re-Imagining Environmental Governance, The Role of Law in Climate Response & Energy Transformation and Wetlands Protection & Hydrologic Cycle Visit https://www.eli.org/eli-50th-anniversary to learn more.

Impacting Policy Change in China
Last summer, ELI launched the China International Business Dialogue on Environmental Governance (CIBDEG) in collaboration with Latham & Watkins and the Policy Research Center for Environment and Economy, a leading Chinese environmental policy think-tank. CIBDEG is a working group designed to create a dialogue between multinational businesses and Chinese environmental regulatory authorities regarding best practices in environmental regulation and performance by government and industries, as well as the progression of environmental policy and regulation in China. This past April, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment released a draft guidance on how environmental regulators should help companies to achieve compliance. Many of the provisions set forth in the guidance match the very same recommendations voiced by ELI and other participants at recent CIBDEG round tables, demonstrating ELI’s direct impact in China. To learn more about CIBDEG, visit https://cibdeg.eli.org/.

Supporting Strong Judiciaries
Since its first program in 1991, ELI has developed, presented, and participated in educational workshops on critical topics in environmental law for more than 2,500 judges from 27 countries. Last summer, ELI, in partnership with the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), conducted a judicial capacity-building project in Indonesia supported by the Swedish Postcode Foundation to help judges become strong players in the fight against deforestation and the path toward sustainable development. ELI recently created a video about the workshop. Watch it at: https://youtu.be/rd-5NUAHkNk.

EROLPromoting Environmental Rule of Law
Environmental laws have expanded dramatically in the decades following the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. Yet, the implementation and enforcement of these laws often fall far short of what is required to address our environmental challenges. Environmental rule of law—systems in which laws are widely understood, respected, and enforced for the benefit of the planet and its people—is key to addressing and closing this “implementation gap.” In January 2019, ELI and UN Environment released Environmental Rule of Law: First Global Report, providing the first-ever global assessment of the state of the environmental rule of law. In addition to providing actionable next steps, the report seeks to answer questions crucial to effective environmental governance: What are the drivers of environmental compliance and noncompliance? How can society advance environmental rule of law? What can we do to protect environmental defenders? How can government agencies ensure meaningful public participation in environmental decisionmaking? On April 2, ELI and leading experts in international and national environmental law gathered to address these and other issues key to effective environmental rule of law.

Legal Pathways to Deep Decarb in the USHelping Lawyers Combat Climate Change
This spring, ELI Press released Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States, a legal “playbook” that identifies well over 1,000 recommendations that form legal pathways for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. ELI held a book event in Washington, D.C., on April 27, where the book’s lead editors, Michael B. Gerrard and John C. Dernbach, and a number of contributing authors discussed some of their recommendations as well as next steps. Former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly was on hand to give opening remarks, and praised the book for the breadth of issues covered as well as its practical and bipartisan nature. On May 7, ELI co-sponsored an event at White & Case in New York City, where participants learned how law firms can help implement the more than 1,000 options identified in the book. In the May 9 episode of People Places Planet Podcast, ELI’s Lovinia Reynolds talks to Gerrard, Dernbach, and contributing authors to get an inside look. And on May 30, the book was very well received at the U.S.-EU Environmental Colloquium in Rome, Italy, where ELI President Scott Fulton participated in a panel on climate change. The book makes clear that while both the scale and complexity of deep decarbonization are enormous, deep decarbonization is achievable in the United States using laws that exist or could be enacted.

Tracking Emerging Blockchain Applications for the Environment
The hype around blockchains—the programming protocol originally created for the Bitcoin—ranges from apocalyptic predictions of bitcoin energy use that will “destroy our clean energy future” to rosy scenarios that “blockchain technology can usher in a halcyon age of prosperity for all.” But how do we ensure that the environment profits in the end? A new “inventory of blockchains” will help policymakers head toward the right direction. Created by the Project on the Energy and Environmental Implications of the Digital Economy, an initiative of ELI, the Center for Law, Energy & the Environment at UC Berkeley Law, and the Industrial Environmental Management Program at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, this free, online inventory is searchable by category (e.g., energy, climate, food, supply chain, land tenure, genetic resources, waste, or water), type (e.g., app, token, protocol), and status (e.g., public, private, permissioned, or hybrid). Check it out at bcinventory.org.

Beyond Zero SumAssessing New Frameworks for Environmental Policy
Environmental law and environmental protection have long been portrayed as requiring trade offs between incompatible ends: “jobs versus environment”; “markets versus regulation”; “enforcement versus incentives.” Given the many significant challenges we face, does playing the zero-sum game cause more harm than good? And, if so, how do we move beyond it? This spring, ELI Press released Beyond Zero-Sum Environmentalism, the third in a series of books authored by members of the Environmental Law Collaborative (ELC), an affiliation of environmental law professors that began in 2011. In it, the authors tackle the origins and meanings of zero-sum frameworks and assess their implications for natural resource and environmental protection. The authors have different angles on the usefulness and limitations of zero-sum framing, but all go beyond the oversimplified view that environmental protection always represents a loss on some other societal value.

Celebrating Our Wetland Heroes
On May 7, ELI recognized the winners of the 30th Annual National Wetlands Awards: Richard Grant (30th Anniversary Lifetime Achievement); Greg Sutter (Business Leadership); Joel Gerwein (Conservation & Restoration); Robert Thomas (Education & Outreach); Tom and Mary Beth Magenau (Landowner Stewardship); Robert Gearheart (Science Research); and Angela Waupochick (State, Tribal, and Local Program Development). These award winners have restored, researched, and protected thousands of acres of wetlands nationwide, and their examples have inspired others to act and make a difference to protect and improve these vital natural resources. The awardees were honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., where Ben Grumbles, Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment, presented opening remarks. Since 1989, the National Wetlands Awards Program has honored over 200 champions of wetlands conservation.

Showcasing Innovative Thinking
On March 29, ELI and Vanderbilt University Law School co-sponsored the “Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review” (ELPAR), an annual conference that highlights the best ideas from academia on legal and policy solutions to pressing environmental problems. At the conference, the authors present their ideas before an audience of business, government, think-tank, and nonprofit thought leaders. Topics discussed at this year’s conference include fossil fuel leasing and royalty rates on federal lands; state preemption of local environmental initiatives; and selective enforcement of trade laws in the energy and fisheries sectors. Condensed versions of the selected articles, along with commentaries from leading experts in the field, will appear in the August issue of ELR’s News & Analysis. Other topics selected this year include Managing the Future of the Electricity Grid: Energy Storage and Greenhouse Gas Emissions, which was featured at an April 8 ELI webinar, and Green Ethics for Judges, which was presented at Vanderbilt University Law School on March 25. Visit https://www.eli.org/environmental-law-and-policy-annual-review to learn more.

pesticide useInforming Newly Regulated Industries About Pesticide Law
Cannabis cultivation is linked to a number of sustainability challenges, and with every new challenge comes an opportunity for improvement. ELI’s Innovation Lab teamed up with pesticide law and cannabis law experts to create multiple educational brochures demystifying the confusing regulatory landscape of pesticide use on cannabis. Check out A History of EPA's Regulation of Pesticide Use on Cannabis, Pesticide Compliance in the Cannabis Industry, and Pesticide Use in the Cannabis Industry. To see what else ELI’s Innovation Lab is up to, visit https://www.eli.org/innovation-lab.

Educating the Bar
ELI was in San Francisco this past March for our 15th annual Western Boot Camp, hosted by Paul Hastings LLP. This three-day immersion course, designed for both new and seasoned professionals, offered participants valuable insight on the substance and practice of environmental law. Our top-class faculty of highly respected practitioners brought environmental law, practice, and emerging issues to life through concrete examples, cases, and practice concerns. Be on the lookout for Eastern Boot Camp this fall!

Supporting Future Thought Leaders
Grant Glovin, a second-year student at Harvard Law School, was named the winner of the Environmental Law Institute’s 2018-2019 Constitutional Environmental Law Writing Competition. Mr. Glovin’s winning entry, A Mount Laurel for Climate Change, will be featured in a future issue of ELR’s News & Analysis. His article explores applying New Jersey’s Mount Laurel zoning doctrine nationwide to reduce suburban sprawl and combat climate change. Receiving honorable mention was Michelle Melton, a recent graduate also of Harvard Law School. Her entry, The Constitutionality of Taxing Agricultural and Land Use Emissions, will also be published in ELR. The competition was organized by ELI’s Program on the Constitution, Courts, and Legislation, and made possible through the generous support of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.


TEF cover


Following the influx of new members of Congress last January, everybody is talking about a Green New Deal that would address greenhouse gas emissions and a bunch of other social ills via a suite of related policy instruments. The March/April issue takes a closer look in Can the Economy Quickly Shed Carbon? Meanwhile, a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service warns that the rate of species extinction is accelerating. Be sure to check out the Debate in Print from the May/June issue, where an expert panel looks at the difficult issues involved in saving the global environment from biodiversity collapse.


filefishCheck out ELI’s blog series, Vibrant Environment. New blogs are posted twice a week. Recent entries include:

For more, visit https://www.eli.org/vibrant-environment-blog.



Each month, ELI features one article from the Environmental Law Reporter's monthly law journal, News & Analysis, free for download. Recent featured articles include:

Be sure you're getting all that ELR has to offer, including Daily Update and Weekly Update. Learn more here.


RECENTLY FEATURED IN People Places Planet Podcast


podcastELI’s official podcast, People Places Planet Podcast, offers cutting-edge, thought-provoking conversations about current issues central to environmental law and governance. Our podcasts build upon the pivotal role ELI has played in shaping the fields of environmental law, policy, and management, domestically and abroad, over the last 50 years. Recent episodes include Best if Used: Tackling Food Waste in Music City, U.S.A., An Inside Look at Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States, and Restoration Reflections: Gulf Residents Share Their Experiences in the Deepwater Horizon Restoration Processes. These podcasts offer another avenue for ELI to build the skills and capacity of tomorrow’s leaders and institutions, analyze complex and pressing environmental challenges, and convene people with diverse perspectives to build understanding through robust debate and discussion. Visit www.eli.org/podcast or find us on your favorite podcast app.

Read "What's New at ELI" from summer 2017, fall 2017, winter 2018, spring 2018, summer 2018, fall 2018, or winter 2019.