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Vibrant Environment

The PG&E Bankruptcy and California's Clean Energy Future

By Matthew Beyer, Research & Publications Intern
Monday, March 11, 2019

On January 29, 2019, PG&E, the largest utility company in California, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The announcement comes after a spate of wildfires in California have been linked to the company’s equipment and hardware—including a PG&E-operated transmission tower that investigators suggest may have sparked the deadly Camp Fire in Northern California. While the corporation struggles to maintain its public integrity amidst financial reorganization and internal reshuffling, energy consumers and producers alike have been left with an uncertain future.

Legislating a Net-Zero Carbon Future in New Zealand

By Isabelle Smith, Law Clerk
Wednesday, March 6, 2019

“We’re a long way off, to tell you the honest truth.” A candid statement from New Zealand Climate Change Minister James Shaw, made days out from the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference—COP24 Katowice—on the possibility of New Zealand meeting its emission reduction commitment under the Paris Agreement. 

The Global Pact and the Future of Environmental Governance

By Matthew Beyer, Research & Publications Intern
Monday, March 4, 2019

In the international system, there are over 3,500 environmental agreements governing thousands of distinct ecosystems across hundreds of different nations. This complex spider-web of treaties, protocols, and commitments often lacks coherence, obscuring the role of environmental law in the international community. Despite efforts to consolidate international environmental governance with the inception of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1972 and the Paris Climate Accords in 2015, barriers to a consolidated system of environmental law still remain. While UNEP has certainly filled an important role in moving toward such a system, it has historically been unable to act as a unifying central authority in the way that U.N. bodies like WHO, FAO and UNESCO have.

“L’Affaire du Siècle”: Over 2 Million Supporters of Groundbreaking Climate Lawsuit

By Miriam Aczel, Visiting Researcher, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Just weeks after the widespread Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest) protests swept across France for the better part of December, a petition commonly known as the L’Affaire du Siècle—the Case of the Century—has garnered over 2 million supporters.

Brought by four nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)—Greenpeace, Notre Affaire à Tous, OXFAM, and the Fondation Pour la Nature et l’Hommethe December 18 petition contains over 40 pages alleging the French government’s inaction on climate change, claiming that the government has “defaulted its environmental obligations” by failing to take crucial steps to halt rising global temperatures.

INECE Launches Compliance Conversations

By Avital Li, Research Associate, Taylor Lilley, Public Interest Law Fellow, and Jessica Foster, Research & Publications Intern
Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The global community of agencies and NGOs working in the field of environmental compliance and enforcement has grown substantially in recent years, yet many practitioners remain isolated from others working in the field.

As our understanding of the underlying drivers of environmental compliance and non-compliance deepens, a need arises for creative and unconventional collaboration tools. The recently released UN First Global Report on the Environmental Rule of Law examining the current status of environmental laws highlights... 

Rise of the Shadow ESG Regulators

Monday, February 4, 2019

“Corporate social responsibility” (CSR) has had a mixed reputation on its efforts to achieve environmental protection. Some view the rise of interest in CSR positively, especially as traditional methods of government regulation are hampered by political gridlock and not always up to date with the fast-paced development of current technologies. Others view CSR as “greenwashing,” allowing businesses to reap the benefits of being “green” without actually delivering positive impact for the environment.

Feeling the Burn: the Future of California’s Electric Utilities and Homeowners Insurance in Continual Wildfire Season

By Sierra Killian, Research Associate
Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Months after the devastating Camp, Woolsey, and Hill fires in California, the fallout of the blazes continues to rock the state. In the past month, PG&E, the state’s largest electric utility, transitioned out several top executives, had its credit rating downgraded to junk status, and was mandated to inspect its entire electric grid in a sharply worded court order. Last week, the company announced plans to file for bankruptcy by January 29. Citizens, insurance companies, and the state government are also feeling the heat as expected damage costs rise and climate change intensifies the frequency of wildfires. The strain on California’s public and private institutions foreshadows the difficult decisions to come across the fire-prone American West.

The Future of the Amazon Under Bolsonaro

By Avital Li, Research Associate
Monday, January 7, 2019

On the campaign trail, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro promised to eliminate existing protections of the Amazon. Despite some restrictions on his power to fulfill those promises, his administration will have a huge role to play in determining the delicate future of the earth’s largest rainforest, 65% of which is located within Brazil’s borders. Indeed, limiting the ability of agencies to enforce existing laws is more than sufficient to enable the proliferation of illegal logging, farming, and mining in the rainforest.

Tuning the Old Piano

By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Welcome to 2019, a year that stands to be both stimulating and challenging, taking into account all that is happening in our sphere. It also promises to be a year that is deeply reflective for ELI, as we celebrate the Institute's 50th anniversary—50 years of building effective governance and rule of law for environmental protection. The idea around which our programing for the year will be organized is "building on the past to secure the future," and, as you can discern from our website, we will have under this broader rubric a monthly theme and focus. January's theme is pollution prevention.

2018 Year in Review

By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Wednesday, December 26, 2018

As we get ready to ring in the New Year, the editors of Vibrant Environment thought it might be nice to take a look back at some of the work ELI did in 2018.

While environmental quality over the past 50 years has no doubt improved, the pace of change is leaving in the dust the linear environmental strategies of the past. We’re living in a fascinating moment in time when divergent forces—private environmental governance, law, technologies, and communities—are coming together, allowing us to harness their combined power in a new environmental paradigm. In A New Environmentalism: The Need for a Total Strategy for Environmental Protection, ELI offers a new way to think about the environmental strategies of tomorrow. The article was published in the September issue of ELR’s News & Analysis and was featured at the 2018 ELI-Miriam Hamilton Keare Policy Forum. We look forward to continuing the conversation in 2019.