ELI and Stockhom +50: The Path to Implementation
Author
Jordan Diamond - Environmental Law Institute
Environmental Law Institute
Current Issue
Issue
3
Jordan Diamond headshot

In the spring of 1972, environmental law was still in its infancy in many places around the world. Here in the United States, NEPA, the Clean Air Act, and ELI itself were toddlers—all under three years old—and the Clean Water Act wouldn’t be amended to what we know it as today until that fall. Within this setting, the UN hosted the first global Conference on the Human Environment in Sweden. That June, participants from around the world gathered and, following two weeks of deliberation, produced the Stockholm Declaration of baseline environmental principles and an action plan for implementation. The declaration would prove a foundational document cited innumerable times in years to come.

Twenty years later, the global understanding was more complex, as nations and NGOs from around the world again gathered for an event popularly known as the Earth Summit. The resulting Rio Declaration reaffirmed the principles from Stockholm while weaving in a thick thread of sustainable development. The conference also adopted the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity, formalized the Global Environment Facility, and launched the negotiations for the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

This June, 50 years after the first conference, nations will return to Stockholm to further sustainable development and environmental protection. In a tumultuous time, two years into a pandemic and in the midst of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, this gathering is an opportunity for the global community to take stock of our progress on environmental challenges since 1972 and to identify the way forward.

And there has been progress. For example, powerful multilateral agreements have enabled the curtailment of chlorofluorocarbon emissions and helped us reduce the ozone hole in the atmosphere, supported the recovery of endangered species, and regulated trade of a number of hazardous chemicals and wastes to reduce their uncontrolled disposal into the environment. The list goes on.

But there is much more to do, and we are behind where we need to be to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals set for 2030. The world is facing increasing instability and violence, often related to natural resources, and the threat of what climate change will bring hangs over us all. That’s the setting for this new gathering.

Over the decades, ELI has contributed to the development and implementation of many international commitments, from regional agreements to global instruments, and participated in every decadal UN meeting since Rio. We are a leading facilitator of dialogue and action related to environmental peacebuilding, and we have trained thousands of judges in dozens of countries.

This is why ELI will be engaging in and hosting events at Stockholm +50. One area of focus is on deepening our work on judicial education, specifically on climate science. Faced with immense and complex challenges related to transforming economies and reducing climate impacts, judges around the world are being called on to step outside of traditional roles to use their judicial authority to help craft solutions. Our Climate Judiciary Project works to provide them with the necessary technical and scientific understanding related to climate impacts. And our work has shown us that it’s not just U.S. judges that express this need—international partners have asked for the same support. For us, Stockholm +50 is an opportunity to engage our global partners to better design resources and programs to support them.

The second area of focus is on environmental peacebuilding. War and peace have been a subtext throughout these conferences—the Stockholm Conference occurred during the Vietnam War, the Rio Earth Summit was held shortly after the Gulf War, and now Russia has invaded Ukraine in the run-up to Stockholm +50. In the decades since 1972, we have learned much about the diverse linkages between environment, conflict, and peace—and ELI has been a leader in this sphere. Stockholm +50 provides a unique and timely opportunity to take stock of those lessons and more clearly expand upon the essential peace dimension of sustainable development.

We know that international agreements are not a complete solution, but rather a first step. That once a new instrument is created, we must engage in robust implementation at regional, national, and local levels if real, durable change is to occur. So we look forward not just to Stockholm +50, and what may be produced there, but also the days that follow when we walk the path to implementation.

On ELI's Programs at Stockholm +50

ELI - and the Greatest Treaty Ever
Author
Stephen O. Andersen - Environmental Law Institute (former)
David Doniger - Environmental Law Institute (former)
Alan S. Miller - Environmental Law Institute (former)
Durwood Zaelke - Environmental Law Institute (former)
Environmental Law Institute (former)
Environmental Law Institute (former)
Environmental Law Institute (former)
Environmental Law Institute (former)
Current Issue
Issue
2
Durwood Zaelke, Stephen Andersen, David Doniger, and Alan Miller

According to Kofi Annan, it is “perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date.” The then UN secretary general was describing the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, a treaty that has only gained in force and effectiveness in the nearly two decades since Annan’s proclamation. The accord has successfully protected life on Earth threatened by chemical releases that destroy the shield protecting our planet from dangerous ultraviolet radiation.

While less well known, at the same time the Montreal Protocol also has managed to avoid an enormous amount of global warming — some ozone-depleting substances like CFCs and HCFCs are also potent greenhouse gases. Indeed, when The Economist ranked the most effective strategies or events that resulted in the cutting of climate emissions, including the fall of the Soviet Union, China’s one-child policy, and the Kyoto accord on reducing greenhouse gases, the Montreal Protocol came out on top — achieving almost as much mitigation as all the other strategies combined. And the interesting news for readers of this magazine is the contributions of former ELI staff and board members who collectively helped make an aspirational treaty into an effective instrument for planetary protection.

In this article four of those former staff — Stephen O. Andersen, David Doniger, Alan S. Miller, and Durwood Zaelke — describe how important our time at ELI was, at a formative period in our careers. The Institute was the incubator of what later became a global network of collaborators in ozone and climate protection, and the beginning of friendships and professional relationships that have endured for decades.

The Montreal Protocol story started when Mario Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland sounded the alarm in their seminal 1974 article in Nature. They warned that CFCs could destroy stratospheric ozone through a series of catalytic reactions. Rowland and Molina became scientist-activists and publicly urged a halt in CFCs for non-essential uses. Consumers in North America and Scandinavia boycotted aerosol cosmetic and convenience products, which helped motivate governments to develop a framework agreement to start addressing the threat. The result was the Vienna Convention to Protect the Ozone Layer, approved in 1985. In 1987 the Montreal Protocol was added, initially with a commitment of a 50 percent phaseout of CFCs in 12 years and a freeze in halon production and consumption. A few years later the protocol mandated a full phaseout of an expanded list of almost one hundred substances. The protocol was strengthened by amendments several times.

Today, every UN member state is a party and is usually in full compliance, more than 99 percent of nearly 100 ozone-depleting substances have been phased out, and the ozone layer is on the path to recovery later in this century. In the United States alone, the phaseout is expected to prevent over 440 million cases of skin cancer, 2.3 million skin cancer deaths, and 63 million cases of cataracts for Americans born in the years 1890–2100, in addition to protecting agricultural and natural ecosystems from damaging radiation.

The injection of climate change issues into ozone-protection regimes traces back to a year after the Nature paper, when Scripps scientist Veerabhadran Ramanathan warned of the potent greenhouse gas properties of these chemicals. Thanks to the phaseout of ozone depleters, we know we will also avoid climate forcing equal or greater than the warming from all the carbon dioxide releases to date. Phasing down HFCs, the latest to be banned, alone will avoid up to 0.5°C of warming worldwide by the end of the century. Additional measures to improve air conditioner energy efficiency and reduce nitrous oxide emissions could avoid even more warming.

The 1970s were formative years at ELI, founded at the beginning of the decade at the same time as the nascent field of environmental law and policy. Durwood Zaelke started as one of the first two summer scholars in 1972 during law school, and then re-joined ELI as the acting editor-in-chief of the Environmental Law Reporter. After a stint with a big law firm in Los Angeles, Zaelke was invited to return to the Institute in 1975 to work on energy conservation law and policy. Alan Miller initially joined ELI in 1973 as a summer legal intern and returned as a staff member in 1974 to work on the new Clean Water Act and legal barriers to solar energy. Stephen O. Andersen joined in 1976 for a series of five books on energy conservation, and later a study of the Vermont Land Gains Tax following two years’ supporting the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. David Doniger joined ELI in 1978 before he was hired by NRDC, where he made his name.

For each of us, the introduction to environmental law and policy at ELI had lasting influence. The field was still in its infancy; the Environmental Protection Agency and Council on Environmental Quality had only been created at the beginning of the decade, and the recently passed National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, and Clean Water Act were all sources of new regulations and judicial interpretations. Fred Anderson, ELI’s first president, was a legendary mentor, starting every morning with a roundtable discussion of environmental news and strategy. The Institute gave credibility to the idea that a career could be built around resolving environmental issues, as the four of us would prove after leaving. Ozone wasn’t on the ELI agenda in those early years, but the collaborative atmosphere for research we developed there was a model for what each of us was to later do in other capacities in reducing dangerous emissions.

Andersen was first to encounter ozone-depletion science. Prior to joining ELI, as a graduate student at UC Berkeley in 1974, he assisted a federal study assessing climate impacts and depletion of stratospheric ozone from the proposed supersonic transport. The project was canceled in part because of those concerns.

Miller was an early advocate for action to regulate ozone-depleting compounds, starting in 1978 at NRDC by producing a background report for the second international meeting on stratospheric ozone later that year in Germany. He also worked with Rowland on congressional testimony and petitioned EPA to expand the ban on aerosol uses of CFCs to other applications. Upon joining the new World Resources Institute in 1985, he co-authored “The Sky Is the Limit: Strategies for Protecting the Ozone Layer.” From 1989 to 1997 he directed a center on global environmental issues at the University of Maryland that included multiple projects to address ozone depletion, including organizing with Anderson a conference on ozone and climate protection supported by NATO and multiple defense ministries.

Doniger’s work on ozone protection began at NRDC in 1984, when he filed suit against EPA for action against non-aerosol uses of CFCs. The result was an agreed-upon action plan. Ever since, Doniger has led the council’s ozone-protection program, including support for the protocol and subsequent amendments. NRDC’s concept of a 10-year global phaseout was adopted in 1990.

In 2006, Andersen sought ways to accelerate the phaseout of HCFCs. EPA and the Department of State suggested it was more appropriate for an NGO to lead such an effort, so he recruited Zaelke as the point man. Zaelke agreed — despite opposition from some NGOs who thought it a distraction from ongoing efforts to negotiate a climate protocol. He succeeded with the 2007 adjustment to speed the phaseout of HCFCs, providing climate benefits that were three to five times more than the initial commitments of the Kyoto Protocol. The Environmental Forum profiled Zaelke after that victory, noting that he “formed a North-South coalition that recently succeeded in broadening the Montreal Protocol to explicitly address global warming.”

Andersen, Doniger, and Zaelke also cooperated in petitioning EPA to prohibit HFC alternatives once necessary for fast phaseout of the worst substances but no longer needed because of new, superior technology. EPA agreed with the petition but was overruled when two fluorocarbon companies successfully appealed to the D.C. Circuit. The ELI trio, with the support of the suppliers and customers of HFCs, fought back and helped pass the Kigali Amendment to the protocol, bringing in HFCs to the ban list. They also promoted the American Innovation and Manufacturing Act passed in the waning days of the Trump administration to mandate HFC reductions. Shortly after taking office the Biden administration announced it would submit the Kigali Amendment to the Senate for ratification.

Andersen joined EPA to work on ozone protection in 1986 and rapidly rose to prominence as deputy director of the Stratospheric Protection Division. He also served as EPA liaison to the Department of Defense on ozone and climate. He then became director of strategic climate projects until he left the agency in 2009 to join Zaelke at the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. He founded and co-chaired the Montreal Protocol’s Technology and Economic Assessment Panel, bringing together hundreds of experts from diverse backgrounds, including industry, to identify substitutes for ozone-depleting compounds and the basis for subsequent agreements on accelerated phaseouts. His emphasis on voluntary, collaborative approaches enabled agreements with Soviet authorities on an ozone-mapping satellite, partnerships with the Defense Department on environmental measures, and a series of military conferences on eliminating ozone-depleting greenhouse gases. Prior to leaving EPA, Anderson was awarded the Service to America Career Achievement Medal, the nations’ highest award for public service, as well as awards from the governments of Iraq, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and the former USSR, the only non-Soviet citizen to win the award.

Zaelke’s impact on international environmental law began in 1989 when he co-founded the Center for International Environmental Law, as well as the International and Comparative Law Program at American University’s Washington College of Law. He also co-authored the law school textbook International Environmental Law & Policy. In 2003, he founded IGSD to focus on fast-action climate mitigation, including phasing out short-lived climate pollutants to reduce warming in the next two decades, at the same time co-founding a similar program at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UC Santa Barbara. Zaelke has co-authored numerous articles on short-lived climate pollutants with some of the leading scientists in the world. With Molina, his calculation that phasing down HFCs could avoid up to 0.5°C of warming by the end of the century became a key part of the strategy by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to produce a global consensus on the Kigali Amendment. Zaelke and Andersen earned UN and EPA awards for their diplomatic and scientific leadership in support of the amendment.

While their careers took different directions, the four ELI alumni have repeatedly come together. In the 1990s, Miller, Andersen, and Zaelke collaborated on several projects. In addition to their successful efforts in support of the Kigali Amendment, Andersen and Zaelke co-authored Industry Genius: Inventions and People Protecting the Climate and Fragile Ozone Layer, published in 2003, as well as numerous articles. Miller and Doniger reunited to propose strategies for linking HFC reductions with measures to improve energy efficiency in air conditioning, a rapidly growing source of demand for power and carbon emissions globally. In 2020, Zaelke and Molina co-chaired the definitive assessment of the combined climate benefits of improving energy efficiency of cooling equipment during the phasedown of HFCs, with contributions from Andersen and Miller. And this year Miller, Andersen, and Zaelke joined forces again to co-author the book Cut the Super Climate Pollutants Now! making the case for urgent actions.

ELI is globally recognized for its influential publications, conferences, and projects, but as early insiders we would argue that its influence has been magnified many times over by the attraction, incubation, and networking of its management, staff, and members across the broad field of environmental protection. TEF

TESTIMONY The Environmental Law Institute has been the incubator for staff who went on to make extraordinary contributions to ozone-layer protection and climate change leadership. In this article, four alumni tell their story.

Does Chronic Leakage Undermine International Environmental Aid?
Author
Bruce Rich - Environmental Law Institute
Environmental Law Institute
Current Issue
Issue
3
Bruce Rich

When I first came to Washington in the 1980s, I heard references to leakage from contacts in the World Bank. I wondered how it could be that a well-funded institution like the bank would not maintain its plumbing — wasn’t it time to fix the leaky toilets and faucets immediately and reduce the water bills? Of course leakage was the widely used euphemism even then for corruption. Over the decades leakage has grown, despite greater awareness and intermittent reforms in the transparency of the bank and other aid agencies. The initial institutional response often remains denial, and the cold light of continuing research reveals that reforms have often had little effect.

In February, the chief economist of the World Bank, Yale professor Penelope Goldberg, resigned after only 15 months on the job. Goldberg’s departure, according to the Economist and Financial Times, appeared to be connected to frustration with the alleged suppression by bank management of a report documenting substantial increases of capital flight to tax havens directly following disbursements of bank loans and other foreign aid.

The bank subsequently did publish the paper (“Elite Capture of Foreign Aid: Evidence From Offshore Bank Accounts”), and its findings are troubling. It examined disbursements to 22 borrowing nations with a high dependence on foreign aid, and increases in financial flows from the same countries into offshore financial tax havens, finding an “implied leakage rate [of] around 7.5 percent for the sample.” Leakage increases to over 15 percent for the most aid-dependent nations, where foreign assistance accounts for more than 3 percent of GDP.

According to the paper, “The results are consistent with aid capture by ruling elites; diversion to secret accounts either directly or through kickbacks from private-sector cronies can explain the sharp increase in money held in foreign banking centers specializing in concealment and laundering.” The authors, affiliated with universities in Norway and Denmark, state that their analysis is “consistent with the view that very high levels of aid” may actually “foster corruption and institutional erosion.”

These findings are of great relevance for the increasing flows of bilateral and multilateral aid for environmental purposes. For one thing, a significant part of environmental aid to conserve biodiversity goes to poorer countries with threatened ecosystems — for example tropical forests in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, or Papua New Guinea. Substantial aid has gone for climate finance where there have been well-publicized problems of environmental integrity — is the aid financing real net environmental benefits? — and corruption. The Kyoto Protocol Clean Development Mechanism, the U.N./World Bank Reduced Emissions for Forest Destruction and Degradation (REDD+) programs, and the UN Green Climate Fund are among the climate finance instruments where concerns over environmental integrity and leakage have arisen.

In 2005, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee found that as much as 30 percent of multilateral development bank lending may be leaked — stolen by borrowing country national elites and their collaborators and facilitators often based in rich countries. The bank established a Department of Institutional Integrity to investigate corruption in bank projects in 2001, but from the beginning even this modest initiative encountered resistance from major borrowers whose governments complained of an infringement on sovereignty.

In 2007, the bank’s executive board commissioned former U.S. Federal Reserve head Paul Volcker to lead an independent evaluation of the integrity department. After submitting his report, Volcker told the Financial Times that there was “ambivalence in the bank as to whether they really want an effective anti-corruption program or not.” Many on the board as well as in the operational staff feared that “a strong anti-corruption effort would be anti-development.” Volcker concluded that “the bank does not lack for units reviewing and evaluating its varied operations,” but, he added, “a strong focus on managerial and institutional accountability is lacking.” The circumstances surrounding Goldberg’s departure indicate that Volcker’s concerns are still at least partly valid.

The new bank leakage report observes that a decade of OECD-driven reforms have enhanced financial transparency in rich country tax havens, but nevertheless its sample data for 22 nations produced “no clear signs” of reduction in the leakage and theft of aid.

The World Bank is hardly the worst example of leakage. In fact, because of its increasing transparency and the degree of outside scrutiny it attracts, the bank probably ranks among the best-managed international institutions — which is both the proverbial good news and bad news.

Does Chronic Leakage Undermine International Environmental Aid?

International Institutions Need to Step Up
Author
Wil Burns - American University Institute for Carbon Removal Law and Policy
American University Institute for Carbon Removal Law and Policy
Current Issue
Issue
3
Parent Article
Wil Burns

I will outline the potential international institutions that might govern one of these two categories of geoengineering that we’ve been discussing, carbon dioxide removal, both in terms of research and, later, the governance issues in deploying these approaches.

There have been two international regimes to date that have sought to regulate geoengineering. The first is the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Waste and Other Matter, which is usually referred to as the London Dumping Convention, and its associated protocol, and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The impetus for both of these regimes was the small-scale fertilization experiments that were being conducted by private parties and academic institutions that seeded small patches in the ocean with iron to induce phytoplankton production to take up carbon and sequester substantial amounts on the bottom of the ocean.

The parties to the London Dumping Convention passed a resolution in 2008 classifying ocean iron fertilization experiments as an activity other than dumping. However, at the same time it placed serious restrictions on those activities, limiting them to legitimate small-scale scientific research. Ultimately, in 2010 the parties did develop an environmental assessment framework that could conceivably be used for other kinds of geoengineering experiments.

As resolutions, these measures are not legally binding on the parties. However, the 47 parties to the protocol subsequently adopted an amendment establishing legally binding regulation of ocean geoengineering in a number of different ways.

First, the amendment would expand the potential purview of what could be regulated beyond ocean iron fertilization to all “marine geoengineering activities,” defined broadly as deliberate intervention of the marine environment to manipulate natural processes. Second, it would require permits issued by the parties to the convention before such activities occur, including a requirement to limit or reduce potential pollution in the marine environment “as far as practicable.” Third, permits are limited to legitimate scientific research and there can be no pecuniary gains. Finally, the amendment establishes a risk assessment framework, plus relevant monitoring and reporting to the secretary of the convention and to the other parties.

While this amendment to the protocol would be legally binding and would substantially expand the purview of what could be regulated under the London Dumping Convention, there are some big limitations. It would be restricted to marine-based approaches. Further, this regime has no particular expertise in the context of geoengineering. It has a limited number of parties, only half the number of the convention. Perhaps most importantly the amendment to the protocol will only come into force when two-thirds of the parties have adopted it. To date only five parties have adopted this amendment. So at this point the London Dumping Convention’s governance is largely restricted to recommendations with, again, a focus on marine geoengineering activities.

The Convention on Biological Diversity has also scrutinized ocean iron fertilization. The parties passed a resolution in 2008 that called for compiling scientific information on such fertilization, which the regime has been doing on a pretty regular basis. In 2010, the CBD passed a resolution to regulate geoengineering research, again restricting it to “small scale scientific research.” Notably, the CBD is not closing expansion of geoengineering activities in the future.

Also notably this is a pretty capacious definition of geoengineering, unlike under the London Dumping Convention, which is restricted to materials placed in the oceans. The CBD measure governs any technologies that deliberately reduce solar insolation, which would encompass solar radiation management approaches, or that increase carbon sequestration on a large scale.

But the CBD also has some serious limitations. First of all, as is true with the London Dumping Convention, these are not legally binding resolutions on the parties. Second, again, this is a regime that doesn’t have any particular expertise in this field. Third, and maybe most importantly, the focus of the regime is on the potential impacts of geoengineering activities on biodiversity. So it’s not likely to focus on issues such as the impacts that some of these activities might have on human health, or social justice implication, such as impacts of diverting large amounts of land and potentially raising food prices for some of the world’s most vulnerable.

Finally, quite frankly this has been a relatively feckless regime. It hasn’t done a particularly good job of arresting the decline of biodiversity. And so one would be hard-pressed to be particularly effective in addressing this issue, which is arguably outside of its purview.

The question arises as to what other potentially pertinent regimes and principles might govern carbon dioxide removal approaches at the international level in the future. Probably one of the most logical ones would be the climate regime, right?

If we were to utilize climate geoengineering options in the future, presumably we would be doing it as part of a suite of responses in which we would seek to radically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to climatic impacts that are inevitable, and deploying these approaches to presumably buy us time or to help us in so-called overshoot scenarios where temperatures exceed the targets of the Paris Agreement. Since we would be seeking to reduce temperatures by drawing carbon out of the atmosphere, the Paris regime would seem pertinent.

The initial question is whether the parties could include carbon dioxide removal options in their pledges, their so-called Nationally Determined Contributions. Well, if you look at Article 4 of the agreement, it says the parties are to prepare these NDCs and pursue domestic mitigation measures to achieve the objectives of such contributions.

Now, while the term mitigation strangely enough is not defined in the Paris Agreement, it is in its parent agreement, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The convention defines mitigation as limiting emissions of greenhouse gases and protecting and enhancing greenhouse gas sinks and reservoirs. So to the extent that carbon dioxide removal options are a way to protect and enhance sinks by taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it would seem that it would be one of the potential forms of mitigation that could be incorporated into parties’ NDCs. This is also consistent with Article 5 of the agreement, which expressly calls for the parties to take action and conserve and enhance sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases.

Paris could also be invoked to regulate the use of carbon dioxide removal by parties in several ways that might be pertinent. First of all, in the preamble it indicates that when measures are taken to address climate change there is a need to “respect, promote, and consider” obligations in terms of human rights.

Some of the carbon dioxide removal approaches we’re talking about could have human rights implications. For example, large-scale use of bioenergy with carbon capture requires huge diversions of agricultural lands for bioenergy feedstocks, which some people argue could massively raise food prices. Some have argued that this could potentially contravene the human right to food.

Bioenergy with carbon capture deployed at large scale also might require as much water as all the water that we currently use for irrigation. As a consequence, it could have implications for the human right to water. To take another example, ocean iron fertilization might undermine fisheries, which could have implications in terms of rights to subsistence and development.

Finally, there are customary international law principles that would be pertinent at least to large-scale deployment of these techniques. This includes the precautionary principle, which arguably could cut either way, either limiting geoengineering deployment or requiring it to offset dangerous climate change, and the no-harm principle where transboundary impacts might occur.

Global Environmental Law

All around the world, nations have established legal frameworks to protect our environment. While many of these frameworks share similar goals and objectives, they hold important differences as well. In Global Environmental Law, Justice Ricardo Luis Lorenzetti and Professor Pablo Lorenzetti offer a holistic view of modern environmental law.

Resource Management Betters Peacebuilding
Author
Carl Bruch - Environmental Law Institute
Environmental Law Institute
Current Issue
Issue
6
Parent Article
Carl Bruch

The Institute’s innovative environmental peacebuilding program integrates natural resource management with conflict prevention, mitigation, resolution, and recovery to build resilience in affected communities. Pioneered by ELI, this field of scholarship and practice now builds on decades of work by the Institute and others.

In the early 1990s, ELI led a diplomatic effort in the Gulf of Aqaba, bringing together Israelis, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis, and others to develop a regional vision for protecting the region’s fragile environment. The collaboration was codified in the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty.

Later in the decade, the Institute coordinated a global assessment of the state of legal, scientific, and economic approaches to addressing the environmental consequences of war. The research informed the United Nations Compensation Commission as it adjudicated environmental claims against Iraq for its illegal invasion and occupation of Kuwait in the 1990-91 Gulf War.

In 2004, ELI engaged with Liberia to reform its forestry sector. The UN Security Council had imposed sanctions on the nation’s timber, and the Institute helped Liberia’s government, civil society, and partner organizations develop a common vision and a revised legal framework to restore the country’s forestry sector.

In the process, ELI introduced notice-and-comment rulemaking to Liberia (which is now a requirement for all forestry-related regulations), and then became involved in building the capacity of government, civil society, and communities to deal with environmental problems.

As a result of this work, ELI realized that operating in these conflict-affected settings differed substantially from that in other developing countries, and furthermore that there was then little analysis about how conflict dynamics should shape assistance to those countries.

With UN Environment, the University of Tokyo, and McGill University in Canada, ELI led a global initiative to take stock of experiences in post-conflict peacebuilding and natural resource management. The ensuing 150 case studies and analyses in six edited books runs to 3,900 pages — an unprecedented body of knowledge on these issues.

ELI and UN Environment have since been incorporating their learning into operational guidance for United Nations bodies, the African Development Bank, and other institutions. That scholarship and experience also has informed ELI’s technical assistance and capacity building in Lebanon, Timor-Leste, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Myanmar, Colombia, Jordan, and other fragile and conflict-affected countries.

The ramping up of environmental peacebuilding in ELI’s policy portfolio over the years eventually led to the development of an enduring conceptual and institutional framework that brings together people from varied disciplines and geographies. The Institute created the Environmental Peacebuilding Knowledge Platform (environmentalpeacebuilding.org), the Environmental Peacebuilding Community of Practice (with more than 3,700 members globally), a biweekly Environmental Peacebuilding Update (now in its sixth year), and the Al Moumin Award and Distinguished Lecture for thought leadership in environmental peacebuilding.

More recently, the Institute supported the UN’s International Law Commission in codifying international law protecting the environment in periods before, during, and after armed conflict. ELI staff briefed the UN Security Council.

And ELI and partners delivered a massive open online course on Environmental Security & Sustaining Peace, with 17,000 people from 176 countries enrolling in the course in 2018 and 2019. ELI and partners launched the Environmental Peacebuilding Association, a professional society with individual and institutional members in more than 55 countries. In October, the association convened the First International Conference on Environmental Peacebuilding, marking a pivot point as ELI and partners transition to a more integrated and enduring suite of efforts to learn, build capacity, and improve practice.

Pilgrims to Where Sun Was Born: Culture, Species, and Sustainability
Author
Bruce Rich - Environmental Law Institute
Environmental Law Institute
Current Issue
Issue
4
Bruce Rich

The Huichol people number some 45,000 in rural western and central Mexico. They have adapted to modern society but conserve elements of the naturalistic pantheism shared by nearly all hunter-gatherer groups thousands of years ago. Huichol culture still involves periodic ritualistic pilgrimages over hundreds of miles to visit religious natural sites, itineraries along indigenous trade routes forged prior to the European arrival.

Various features in this sacred landscape — caves, springs, mountains, lakes, and the ocean itself, as well as animals and plants — are encountered as incarnations of ancestors who through sacrifice helped to create and sustain the world. The pilgrimages educate younger Huichol chosen as future leaders who will join the elders. Initiates achieve with the help of peyote the visionary power of nierika, the transcendental perception of the structure of the world, which is inspirational to Huichol art.

The Huichol language remains unwritten, so traditions are passed on in this manner. Various scholars characterize the sacred pilgrimages as ambulatory “weavings of ritual texts,” “readings of a codex extended on the landscape,” and the Huichol “nomad itinerant university.”

The most important pilgrimage extends 400 miles eastwards from the Pacific Ocean to the top of the Cerro Quemado (“Burnt Hill”) in the sacred area called Wirikuta, a few miles from the old mining town of Real de Catorce in San Luis Potosi state. Here the Huichol ancestors sacrificed themselves to give birth to the sun, killing the morning stars; they were transformed into those fading stars that the initiates see from the top of the mountain at dawn, disappearing as the sun rises. In Wirikuta the ancestors conducted the first deer hunt, and in the deer’s footprints the first peyote plants grew.

Threats to Wirikuta started with road building in the 1970s that catalyzed logging and agricultural expansion. By the 1990s the Huichol teamed up with a local NGO, Conservacion Humana, together with World Wildlife Fund Mexico and another Mexican environmental NGO, Pronatura, to fight for modifications in highway construction. The coalition succeeded in getting San Luis Potosi to establish Wirikuta as a protected cultural and ecological area in 1994, and its size was doubled in 2000. Wirikuta has been on UNESCO’s Tentative List for confirmation as a World Heritage natural and cultural site since 2004, and WWF has designated the area as one of Earth’s three most biodiverse desert ecosystems.

In 2009 a Canadian company, First Majestic Silver, purchased from the Mexican government for $3 million mining concessions covering over 70 percent of the Wirikuta protected area. The concessions are arguably legal, since mining will take place in special use sub-zones specifically carved out of the core protection area.

The coalition, the Front in Defense of Wirikuta, convinced a Mexican federal court in 2012 to issue an injunction against the mining, citing both Mexican and international law, including International Labor Organization Convention 169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, and the 2008 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. But attempts to get the Mexican National Commission of Natural Protected Areas to designate Wirikuta as a federal reserve backfired, energizing non-indigenous farmers and community groups in Real de Catorce to file a successful lawsuit against the proposal.

University of Guanajuato research found that many in non-Huichol communities welcome a mining rejuvenation. The creation of Real de Catorce and other Spanish settlements in the area dates back to the opening of mines in the 18th century; the region has had a silver culture for over 250 years.

First Majestic has adopted the discourse of “sustainable mining,” promising $6 million for a local museum dedicated to the industry as well as for the establishment of crafts workshops in silversmithing and music, with stipends for local students. It promises to finance two water treatment plants for Real de Catorce and another community — 20 percent of the water will go for the mining, the rest for local use — and has pledged not to use open pit mining or cyanide.

Sustainability rhetoric notwithstanding, the on-the-ground reality worldwide of many extractive industry investments is one of growing social and environmental abuses — a problematic record in which Canadian mining companies have often been disproportionately involved.

The fate of Wirikuta will reflect whether the overlapping priorities of indigenous rights, biodiversity protection, and economic development can be reconciled — as species accelerate toward extinction, indigenous cultures around the world die, and, for the Huichol, the places where the sun and the world were born are threatened.

Pilgrims to where sun was born: Culture, species, and sustainability.

An Important New Grist for Water Justice Around the World
Author
Scott Fulton - Environmental Law Institute
Environmental Law Institute
Current Issue
Issue
3
Scott Fulton

As I write this column, I am returning from the 8th World Water Forum in Brasilia. Held every three years, the forum is the world’s largest gathering on freshwater resources. This particular convening was the first time that the event brought judges together with other policymakers to discuss the precarious state of freshwater resources and the importance of rule of law in achieving water objectives.

By virtue of ELI’s historic leadership in judicial education — thousands of judges trained in nearly 30 countries over nearly 30 years — we serve as advisors to the Global Judicial Institute on the Environment, the entity that pulled this event together along with UN Environment, the Organization of American States, and the World Conservation Union.

Alejandra Rabasa, head of ELI’s judicial education program, and I were there to participate in the exchange of ideas with a remarkable gathering of judges from around the world, including more than 40 Supreme Court justices, with Justice Antonio Benjamin from the National High Court of Brazil serving as host and leader.

Marking the importance of this gathering, ELI dedicated a section of the March 2018 issue of the Environmental Law Reporter to a series of judge-authored articles that speak to the importance of the judiciary in achieving water justice and ecological sustainability as keepers of environmental rule of law.

For me, the forum was a continuation of a fascinating lane of work that opened twenty years ago, when, as a judge on EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board, I was asked by the United Nations to participate in an initiative to build capacity for environmental adjudication. There was a powerful idea behind the measure: if judges around the world were equipped with an understanding of environmental phenomena and the relative societal importance of environmental protection, and were exposed to the basic principles that animate environmental law, as well as best practices for adjudicating environmental cases, then, driven as they are by their charge to do justice, they could be a catalyst for environmental improvement even in settings where other elements of government are failing. I became involved in a transfer of judicial knowledge that has taken me to every corner of the globe.

There were some important stops along the way, including the 2002 International Global Judges Symposium on the Environment in Johannesburg that produced The Johannesburg Declaration — the first consensus statement of its kind on the role of the judiciary relative to the environment. There was service on the Judges Advisory Committee that helped produce the 2005 Judicial Handbook on Environmental Law. There was the historic Rio+20 gathering of judges that produced The Rio+20 Declaration.

And now, the 2018 World Water Forum, which once again served as a reminder of the power of knowledge transfer among judges, and birthed the Brasilia Declaration of Judges on Water Justice. This document, which points to 10 principles of water justice, is well worth the read, as it anticipates and leans into the future shape of water law around the world.

To illustrate, let me point to a few noteworthy examples. Principle 1 provides that “the state should exercise stewardship over all water resources, and protect them, in conjunction with their associated ecological functions, for the benefit of current and future generations, and the Earth community of life.” Principle 2 provides that, “because of the close interlinkages between land and water and the ecological functions of water resources, any person with a right or interest to use water resources or land has a duty to maintain the ecological functions and integrity of water resources and related ecosystems.” Principle 6 provides that “in case of uncertainty, water and environmental controversies before the courts should be resolved, and the applicable laws interpreted, in a way most likely to protect and conserve water resources and related ecosystems.” Principle 7 provides that, absent exceptional circumstances, “those who use water resources and their services . . . should pay prices or charges based on the full life cycle of costs of providing the water resources and their ecosystem services.”

While in the United States, with our highly granular system, we may not see judges picking up the Brasilia Declaration in their decisions, in the many parts of the world where environmental duties and rights are less well defined, judges are increasingly turning to customary international law and generally accepted principles in framing their environmental judgments. That means that this declaration will serve as important new grist for water justice around the world.

On a new grist for "water justice."

Everglades Author Would Back Kids
Author
Stephen R. Dujack - Environmental Law Institute
Environmental Law Institute
Current Issue
Issue
3

Everglades Author Would Back Kids

The survivors of the horrible massacre at the high school in Parkland, Florida, have created a national movement in favor of measures to reduce gun violence. Firearms kill roughly as many Americans as does pollution and thus represent an equivalent threat to public health.

In bringing their message to the nation’s capital in a huge demonstration in March, with sibling gatherings around the country, they were consciously following in the tradition of their school’s namesake. Before Rachel Carson, before Aldo Leopold, there was Marjory Stoneman Douglas. “In the history of the American environmental movement, there have been few more remarkable figures,” according to the Independent. She was a prolific freelance writer — a staple of the Saturday Evening Post’s fiction lineup during the Depression — and earlier one of the vanguard of female journalists of a muckraking bent who began to come on board early in the last century (think Ida Tarbell).

It was relatively late in life, in 1947, that she published The Everglades: River of Grass, a great example of branding that burned into the public consciousness that this was a treasure, not a swamp that had to be drained for development. She was eventually bestowed the sobriquet “Empress of the Everglades” and became beloved by conservationists and dreaded by industry.

Douglas campaigned for environmental protection generally and for Everglades protection specifically for the rest of her long life — she died in 1998 at the age of 108. The massacre survivors who led the march in Washington were born a few years later.

Her famous book was a project that began from an assignment for a series of works on American rivers. She researched the Miami River and found it had its source in the Everglades. The publisher permitted her to change her scope, and she spent the years of World War II crisscrossing the huge wetland, gathering information.

It was during this research that she came to realize that the water in the Everglades was a huge southward flow emanating from Lake Okeechobee and flowing to the Gulf of Florida. That gave her the famous title. Then she penned her signature line to open the book: “There are no other Everglades in the world.”

Fifty years later the Christian Science Monitor would comment, “Today her book is not only a classic of environmental literature, it also reads like a blueprint for what conservationists are hailing as the most extensive environmental restoration project ever undertaken anywhere in the world.”

From her arrival in South Florida, it is safe to say that Douglas was horrified by what she saw happening. Before World War I, Miami was an outpost of 5,000 people. But even then sugar cane farmers and ranchers were burning down the Everglades to make way for their exploitation of what Douglas came to realize was the source of drinking water for the burgeoning city and the rest of growing South Florida. Her evocative language shamed the businessmen for their rapaciousness and galvanized the public to protect the wetland, although that is still a project very much in progress.

Hired by the Miami Herald in 1915 to write the society column, her third day on the job she wrote about suffrage. She also took on the Ku Klux Klan. “She wrote whatever the hell she wanted to write about,” says biographer Jack E. Davis. The Washington Post enumerates columns “shaming her readers for not knowing that Florida was still running a slavery-like convict-leasing program and demanding the creation of a public welfare office for the protection of children.”

As the Post puts it, “Douglas had a reputation for relentlessly challenging politicians and powerful political interests even on issues that seemed like lost causes at the time.” The paper calls that “a description that almost eerily parallels the efforts of the teenagers leading the charge today.” Of the survivors’ efforts, the Post quoted a former journalist for the Tampa Bay Times who was among the last to interview the late activist: “I would bet my soul that Mrs. Douglas would not only approve, but applaud,” said Jeff Klinkenberg.

Douglas, like the kids, had her experience lobbying Florida legislators, in her case for suffrage — an occasion she likened to talking to “dead mackerel.” But her constant crusade on all fronts to protect her beloved wetland was eventually rewarded by some measures mitigating the harm and attempts at restoration.

The effort to protect the River of Grass is far from over. The high school in Parkland was built on land reclaimed from the Everglades, an irony that bothered the great lady and serves to illustrate the difficulties in preserving this national treasure. There are no other Everglades in the world.

Benefits of Regulations Far Exceeded Costs During Obama Era

The White House Office of Management and Budget on Friday evening [February 23] released its annual report on the costs and benefits of federal regulations, showing that the benefits of major Obama-era rules far exceeded the costs.

The report found the annual benefits of major federal regulations from 2006 to 2016 were between $219 billion and $695 billion, while the annual costs were between $59 billion and $88 billion.

The findings are at odds with the Trump administration’s push to roll back a host of Obama-era environmental rules.

Public interest groups were quick to accuse OMB of burying the report because it undercut the administration’s deregulatory agenda.

“They released it on a Friday evening while Congress was on recess and nobody was really paying attention in Washington,” said James Goodwin, senior policy analyst with the Center for Progressive Reform.

“For most normal people, this report is good news,” Goodwin said. “It basically says that all the regulations the Obama administration put out had huge net benefits.

“For the Trump administration, it’s bad news because they have to say something nice about the Obama administration, which they’re loathe to do.” . . .

The report “directly contradicts, rather than supports, the push to roll back protections in virtually every sector,” [Public Citizen’s Amit] Narang said.

E&E News

 

“We’ve spent 40 years putting together an apparatus to protect public health and the environment from a lot of different pollutants. . . . [EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt] is pulling that whole apparatus down.”

— William D. Ruckelshaus as quoted in the Washington Post

A World of Environmental Progress

Down Under should have an environmental agency, experts are saying. “Australia needs an independent national agency charged with safeguarding the environment and delivering effective climate policy,” according to The Conversation blog, which cites “a new campaign . . . by a coalition of environmental, legal, and medical NGOs.”

The huge nation, modeled after Great Britain and the United States, surprisingly has been taking care of environmental protection in an ad hoc manner, unlike her progenitors.

“The proposal would involve establishing a high-level Commonwealth Environment Commission that would be responsible for commonwealth strategic environmental instruments, in much the same way that the Reserve Bank is in charge of economic levers such as interest rates.

“The new CEC would manage a nationally coordinated system of environmental data collection, monitoring, auditing, and reporting, the conduct of environmental inquiries of a strategic nature, and the provision of strategic advice to the commonwealth government on environmental matters, either upon request or at its own initiative. The necessary outcomes would then be delivered by government and ministers via a newly created National Environmental Protection Authority.”

Chile protects 4,000-mile coastline with marine reserves. The government in Santiago has passed legislation to protect its famous ocean border, according to the St. Kitts & Nevis Observor. President Michele Bachelet signed the law that creates a string of natural preserves.

“President Bachelet . . . said that Chile needed to establish the basis on which it would conserve its marine territory for the future,” the newspaper reported. “Who we are and who we can be, is inevitably tied up with our 6,400-kilometre coast,” Bachelet said. “This is why it is so important to understand that the sea is vital for our national development.”

The newpaper reports that the legislation “will increase the area of sea under Chilean state protection from 4.3 percent to 42.4 percent, and protect marine life in around 1.4 million square kilometres of sea.”

A new Afghan law would impose the death penalty for major pollution offenses, according to Tolo News. Other environmental crimes will result in serious jail time. “President Ashraf Ghani has issued a decree on the environmental law, stating any person found guilty of committing major pollution-related crimes can face between 16 and 20 years in prison,” the newspaper reports.

The legislation also places the onus on inspectors, who can face fines and prison time for failing to enforce the law, “while an offender whose actions have led to the death of a person can get the death penalty.”

The newspaper notes that “members of the public and health experts have welcomed the enforcement of this law and said that the high levels of pollution, especially in Kabul, has resulted in a marked increased in illnesses.”

The right to a healthy and sustainable environment is vital, a press release from Human Rights Watch, Earthjustice, Amnesty International, and the Center for International Environmental Law claims. The release calls for adoption of an internationally recognized right to ensure “a life of dignity. Clean water, air, and soils, and diverse ecosystems are indispensable for people to lead healthy lives. More generally, the right also protects the civic space needed for individuals to engage in dialogue on environmental policy.”

School’s namesake would have supported gun activists.

ELI Report
Author
Laura Frederick - Environmental Law Institute
Environmental Law Institute
Current Issue
Issue
3

Artificial Intelligence: Will algorithms benefit the environment? Report points the path to beneficial uses of computerization

Artificial Intelligence is changing how our society operates. AI now helps make judicial decisions, medical diagnoses, and drives cars. AI also has the potential to revolutionize how we interact with our environment. It can help improve resource use and energy efficiency and predict extreme weather.

AI can also exacerbate existing environmental issues. For example, software manipulation of over a half million VW diesel automobiles created one of the largest environmental scandals of the past decade.

ELI’s Technology, Innovation, and the Environment Program was developed to better understand the environmental impacts and opportunities created through emerging technologies and their underlying innovation systems

When Software Rules: Rule of Law in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, a new report from program director David Rejeski, explores the interaction between AI and the environment and the need for some form of governance to ensure that it is deployed in a manner that is beneficial.

“As environmental decisionmaking becomes internalized into AI algorithms, and these algorithms increasingly learn without human input, issues of transparency and accountability must be addressed,” said Rejeski. “This is a moment of opportunity for the legal, ethical, and public policy communities to ensure positive environmental outcomes.”

“When Software Rules” offers the government, businesses, and the public a number of recommendations they can use as they begin to consider the environmental impacts of AI.

The report discusses concerns with AI systems. These include unintended consequences, such as race bias in algorithms, and the common difficulty of understanding the logic of deep-learning systems and how they come to decisions. Other sources of concern include issues like algorithms functioning on the basis of correlation without proving causality; legal liability issues; lack of privacy from data mining; and the risk of hacking.

Some form of governance over AI systems is necessary to address some of these issues, and ensure responsibility, including taking environmental considerations into account. Semi-formal governance systems may include voluntary codes outlining engagement with AI research or self-governance by institutions looking to create “ethical” AI systems. A more formal governance system may include legislation protecting consumers from faulty algorithms.

ELI provides a number of recommendations as to how AI governance can include consideration of environmental impacts. Suggestions are provided for all stakeholders: the private AI sector, programmers, governments, and the public.

For example, the private AI sector can develop research teams that include evaluation of the socio-environmental impacts of their algorithms and assemble stakeholder groups to develop guidelines for sustainable development of AI.

Programmers can increase the transparency of their algorithms so users can understand why decisions are being made, and they can increase their commitment to prioritizing environmental benefits.

Governments can ensure AI systems are powered by renewable energy to meet the energy demand of these new systems and create incentives for the development of AI that tackles environmental issues.

Members of the public can advocate for systems that promote their cultural norms and values, including environmental protection, and they can make responsible consumer choices by supporting AI companies that are transparent and environmentally conscious.

As AI governance becomes a societal expectation and is later bound by semiformal or formal contracts, the environment must be a central focus in AI discourse and subsequent laws and policy, the report concludes. ELI will continue to provide guidance on how these goals can best be achieved.

“When Software Rules: Rule of Law in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” is available for free download at eli.org/research-report/when-software-rules-rule-law-age-artificial-intelligence.

Al Moumin awardees highlight promise of peacebuilding efforts

ELI co-hosted the annual Al-Moumin Distinguished Lecture on Environmental Peacebuilding, a hallmark of the Institute’s Environmental Peacebuilding Program. Co-sponsored by the Environmental Law Institute, American University, and the United Nations Environment Programme, the lecture recognizes leading thinkers who are shaping the field of environmental peacebuilding and presents the prestigious Al-Moumin Award. The series is named for Mishkat Al-Moumin, Iraq’s first Minister of Environment, a human rights and environment lawyer, and a Visiting Scholar at ELI.

This event, now in its fifth year, honored Ken Conca and Geoff Dabelko for their outstanding contributions to the field.

Conca is a professor of international relations in the School of International Service at American University. Dabelko is a professor and director of environmental studies at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University; he is also a senior advisor to the Environmental Change and Security Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Fifteen years ago, Conca and Dabelko published Environmental Peacemaking, a rejoinder to grim scenarios foreseeing environmental change as a driver of conflict. Conca, Dabelko, and collaborators argued that, despite conflict risks, shared environmental interests and cooperative action could also be a basis for building trust, establishing shared identities, and transforming conflict into cooperation.

In their lectures, Conca and Dabelko reflected on the evolution of environmental peacebuilding research since their work began in the early days of the post-Cold War era, their seminal publication, and their long-term engagement with policymakers and practitioners applying these insights around the world.

Their work transformed, and continues to have a profound impact on, the way scholars and practitioners approach and understand the intersection of environmental protection, national security, and human rights.

Conca and Dabelko’s work is also the heart of ELI’s Environmental Peacebuilding Program: As the world experiences increasing pressures on its natural resources and climate, countries must learn to peacefully resolve resource disputes and make the environment a reason for cooperation rather than conflict.

Team travels to Indonesia to prep for judicial education course

Legal authorities are now available in Indonesia to enable civil society and the government to file claims to hold responsible parties liable for damages and the restoration of natural resources.

Through an ELI workshop and curriculum developed in conjunction with the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law and others, judges will learn best practices and methods for implementing new legal processes, including environmental damage valuation and restoration and compensation, tailored to the specific needs of the host country.

The goal is to promote environmental accountability through judicial enforcement. Ultimately, the benefits will include reduced deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as improved biodiversity and quality of life for vulnerable communities.

ELI recently traveled to Indonesia to help prepare for the week-long workshop to be held this summer. Staff met with various local stakeholders to gain background on topics like injury quantification, restoration and compensation, and settlement. ELI was also able to hear from judges which topics are most important to cover.

ELI staff held focus groups with ICEL as well as the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, using an oil spill case to discuss valuation, settlement, and transboundary issues.

ELI and ICEL also held focus group discussions with the Supreme Court of Indonesia’s Environmental Working Group and Center for Training and Legal Research. The discussion included a presentation on the needs assessment by ICEL and a presentation on the comparative study of valuation, compensation, and restoration practice in several countries.

ELI’s judicial education program is a hallmark of the Institute’s work. With in-depth consultations, custom design of programs to meet the specific needs of the particular jurisdiction, and success in creating institutional capacity, the lessons learned continue to be applied after the education is completed. Since 1991, ELI has developed, presented, and participated in more than 40 workshops on critical topics in environmental law for more than 2,000 judges from 27 countries.

ELI met with a local NGO and members of the government to prepare for workshop on judicial enforcement of environmental laws.

Field Notes: Water summit showcases ELI legal expertise

ELI President Scott Fulton and Director of ELI’s Judicial Education Program Alejandra Rabasa traveled to Brazil to participate in the World Water Forum. The forum is the world’s biggest water-related event and is organized by the World Water Council, an international organization that brings together all those interested in the theme of water. Supreme Court justices from over 50 counties were in attendance to shine a light on the importance of rule of law in advancing water quality goals.

ELI hosted a day-long conference on Environmental Law In Practice in Detroit. The conference presented a spectrum of emerging legal issues with a focus on environmental justice. It introduced a wide-ranging exploration of career opportunities in the EJ field. This event featured environmental law experts on panels including Careers in Environmental Justice, Energy & Climate Justice, Water Access and Affordability, and Urban Air Quality.

Agustin V. Arbulu, executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, delivered opening remarks. Keynote addresses were given by Mustafa Santiago Ali, senior vice president of climate, environmental justice and community revitalization, Hip Hop Caucus, and Charles Lee, senior policy advisor, EPA Office of Environmental Justice.

Members of the public came together with lawyers, students, academics, civil rights and social justice advocates and activists, and community groups to discuss pressing issues.

The Conference was co-sponsored by Wayne State University Law School’s Transnational Environmental Law Clinic and Environmental Law Society, University of Chicago Law School’s Abrams Environmental Law Clinic, the American Bar Association’s Environmental Justice Committee of the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, and the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center.

Director of the Ocean Program Xiao Recio-Blanco moderated a webinar on Current Developments on U.S. Fisheries Policy. The Trump administration’s approach to fisheries management seems to constitute a significant policymaking shift. Recent decisions such as extending the Gulf of Mexico season for red snapper or overturning a decision by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that would have cut New Jersey’s recreational quota for summer flounder seem to go against NOAA’s traditional approach of situating scientific information at the center of fisheries decisionmaking.

The webinar discussed these and other recent developments and assessed the direction U.S. fisheries policymaking may take in the future.

ELI and the China Environmental Protection Foundation held the first training session to build the capacity of public interest groups and prosecutors in China since receiving its temporary registration for an environmental protection-related project from China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Beijing Bureau of Public Security.

The session was held at Tianjin University Law School. A total of 53 participants — comprising representatives from public interest groups, environmental courts, prosecutors, and environmental protection bureaus — attended from 16 provinces, autonomous regions, and cities.

Report on perils, promise of artificial intelligence.