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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. 

Celebrating ELI’s 50th Anniversary YearELI 50th logo

December 22, 2019, marks the official 50th Anniversary of the Environmental Law Institute. Throughout the year, ELI will reflect back on how ELI has helped shape environmental law and governance in the United States and around the globe and look ahead in anticipation of an even more impactful future. In celebration of our 50th Anniversary, ELI will be holding special events, programs, and publications throughout the year, some of which are described below. Each month will have its own "theme," beginning with one that has strongly animated ELI’s work through the years – pollution control – and ending in December with a focus on NEPA, the same month ELI and NEPA were formed. Visit https://www.eli.org/eli-50th-anniversary.

podcast logoELI Launches People Places Planet Podcast

In January, ELI released People Places Planet Podcast, providing the public, environmental practitioners, and our members with 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. Podcast programs you may wish to listen to include A New Environmentalism; Checks and Balances on Environmental Policymaking in the Trump Era; and Environmental Disruptors: Fly Grub, the Future of Animal Feed?  This is 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.

Assessing Environmental Rule of LawEROL cover

In early 2019, ELI and UN Environment issued the first ever global assessment of environmental rule of law, which found weak enforcement to be a global trend that is exacerbating environmental threats, despite prolific growth in environmental laws and agencies worldwide over the last four decades. There was a 38-fold increase in environmental laws put in place since 1972, but the failure to fully implement and enforce these laws is one of the greatest challenges to mitigating climate change, reducing pollution, and preventing widespread species and habitat loss, according to the report. While international aid did help countries to enter into over 1,100 environmental agreements since 1972 and develop many environmental framework laws, neither aid, nor domestic budgeting, has led to the establishment of strong environmental agencies capable of effectively enforcing laws and regulations. The report authors identify multiple factors contributing to poor enforcement of environmental rule of law, including poor coordination across government agencies, weak institutional capacity, lack of access to information, corruption and stifled civic engagement.  ELI was tapped to partner with UN Environment to write this impactful report because of our role as a preeminent authority on global environmental governance and rule of law.

Demystifying Renewable Energy Claims

The number of companies voluntarily committing themselves to using more renewable energy is on the rise. Whether they are “100% renewable” or rely on renewable energy sources for just portions of their operations, companies are using a number of different strategies in setting and fulfilling renewable energy goals, each with differing effects on the energy environment. But what specifically does a company mean when it sets a goal? And what does it mean when a company reports progress? ELI recently released a report that demystifies the voluntary world of corporate renewable energy claims. The report, Corporate Statements About the Use of Renewable Energy: What Does the “100% Renewable” Goal Really Mean?, suggests that an achievable goal that stimulates real investment in renewable energy and displacement of fossil fuel demand may be far more important than a high goal that reflects only a company’s available cash and the availability of renewable energy certificates.

Moving Toward a Circular Economy Through New Business Models and Technologies

The rapid extraction of non-renewable resources combined with the deterioration of renewable resources reflects a firmly rooted “take, make, and dispose” economic model. Yet there are hundreds of solutions-focused initiatives collectively fostering a circular economy in which resources are reused in the United States and beyond. As new technologies and business models emerge, we must examine whether these are economically viable and find opportunities to expand their use. On January 24, ELI held a special 50th Anniversary seminar, where experts discussed the many facets, obstacles, and benefits of fostering a circular economy.

Seeking Environmental Justice & Resilient Economies in Appalachia

With some of the highest poverty rates in the country, Appalachian communities stand at a post-coal crossroads between tapping the region’s energy supply and building resilient economies. The disparity of land ownership, long-lasting public health inequities, and unequal access to infrastructure have all resulted in distinct environmental justice obstacles for communities throughout Appalachia. On January 9, ELI and panelists explored the potential of green energy innovation for fostering environmental justice and resilient economies in Appalachian communities.

successful policyDeveloping Successful Policy in an Ever-Changing Environment

Successful policy development involves multiple layers of rules of engagement, including legislative, regulatory, state, local, and community-based activities. Add in the desire to provide certainty to guide long-term business and flexibility for ever-advancing technology, and policy development becomes a multi-level game of chess. But successful policy development is much more than an academic or dictatorial exercise of achieving an ideal. It involves challenges of accounting for and meshing the differing opinions of stakeholder groups and identifying pragmatic ways to implement change that affects real people and businesses. On December 10, ELI held a workshop where experts shared insight on the most effective methods for achieving success in an ever-changing environment. 

Providing Legal Tools to Combat Climate Change

Next month, ELI Press will release Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States, edited by Michael B. Gerrard and John C. Dernbach. This “playbook” identifies well over 1,000 recommendation that form legal pathways for reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% from 1990 levels by 2050. Out of the desire to get the main messages of that book delivered to the broadest possible audience as quickly as possible, ELI Press released Legal Pathways to Deep Decarbonization in the United States: Summary and Key Recommendations this past fall in print and e-book formats. While both the scale and complexity of deep decarbonization are enormous, both books have the same simple message: deep decarbonization is achievable in the United States using laws that exist or could be enacted. To that end, Gerrard and Dernbach are working with a team of pro-bono attorneys to draft rules and regulations based on the recommendations provided. Stay tuned for a Deep Decarbonization seminar this April!



TEF cover

While the mid-term elections won’t reverse the Trump Administration’s deregulatory agenda, oversight in the U.S. House of Representatives is likely to slow such efforts by casting a public light on their consequences and the means and motives of the president’s agency appointees. InsideEPA Publisher Jeremy Bernstein provides post-election coverage and analysis in the January/February issue of The Environmental Forum.

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

2018 Year in Review, by Scott Fulton
WOTUS Proposal Poses Challenge for States, by Rebecca Kihslinger
Standing on Public Lands, by James M. McElfish, Jr.
This Is America’s Food Policy—This Is the 2018 Farm Bill, by Caitlin McCarthy

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:



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