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Vibrant Environment

ELI’s Model Law Can Help Countries Implement Their Commitments Under the Paris Agreement

Signing the Paris Agreement
By John Pendergrass, Vice President, Programs and Publications
Thursday, November 3, 2016

As the Paris Agreement enters into force today, it is important to recognize both the significance of this event and the substantial work now required to implement its provisions. While much attention has been given to its goal of limiting the rise in global temperature to “well below 2°C” relative to pre-industrial times, and to pursue efforts to limit warming to a 1.5°C increase, the real significance of the Paris Agreement is that at least 190 countries and the European Union have pledged to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs).

New ELI Toolkit Aims to Turn the Tide on Marine Litter

Marine debris, NOAA News
By Elana Harrison, Assistant Director of Professional Education
Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a collection of marine debris swirling around the north Pacific Ocean, is estimated by some scientists to be roughly the same size as the state of Texas. While the Garbage Patch moniker can conjure images of a physical trash island, in reality, it is almost entirely made up of microplastics not always seen by the eye, turning the sea into a cloudy soup. Around 80% of the debris comes from land-based sources in North America and Asia.

Square Peg, Round Hole: Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Without Legislative Action

California coast, Ariel E Barry
By David Roche, Staff Attorney
Thursday, October 20, 2016

The legislative process is complicated. Sea-level rise adaptation is complicated. Combine the two, and a tangled mess can result as the law sorts itself out.

Few laws on the books were written with sea-level rise (or climate change, generally) in mind. As a result, policymakers, lawyers, and property owners are left to their own devices to determine how it all fits together. This round hole-square peg legal setup often requires judicial adjudication to become workable and uniform.

At the national level, the regulation of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act is a great example.

The Paris Agreement is a Miracle

Eiffel Tower
By Ann Carlson, Shirley Shapiro Professor of Environmental Law and Faculty Co-Director, Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the UCLA School of Law
Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Something extraordinary happened last week: the Paris Agreement on climate change became a reality. Fifty-five percent of the world’s countries, and countries responsible for 55% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, ratified the accord. The agreement will go into effect on November 4th, far faster than many observers predicted.

How Federal Agencies Are Improving Consideration of Environmental Justice in the NEPA Processes

Factory smokestack
By James M. McElfish, Jr., Senior Attorney; Director, Sustainable Use of Land Program
Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Earlier this year, more than a dozen federal agencies produced a new resource document that pulls together methods that they use to evaluate environmental justice (EJ) concerns when preparing environmental analysis of proposed actions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

This new document, Promising Practices for EJ Methodologies in NEPA Reviews (the Promising Practices report), was the product of more than three years of work by a NEPA Committee established by the federal Interagency Working Group on Environmental Justice.

Our Ocean Conference 2016: Ensuring Effective Enforcement of Marine Protected Areas

 Legal Tools for Strengthening Marine Protected Area Enforcement
By Xiao Recio-Blanco, Director, Ocean Program
Thursday, September 29, 2016

At the 2016 Our Ocean Conference, nearly 20 countries announced the creation of new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) or the expansion of existing ones. This is an important step in the right direction, but creating new MPAs will not make a significant difference if new and old MPAs are not effectively enforced. Through the release of its report, Legal Tools for Strengthening Marine Protected Area Enforcement: A Handbook for Developing Nations, the Environmental Law Institute’s (ELI’s) Ocean Program is playing its part to assist countries in ensuring that MPAs are effectively implemented and enforced, delivering positive conservation outcomes.

RESTORE Draft Comprehensive Plan Update: What It Is, What It Does, and Uncertainties

Gulf of Mexico
By David Roche, Staff Attorney
Thursday, September 22, 2016

On August 23, 2016, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council (Council) released its draft Comprehensive Plan Update. This plan “is intended to provide strategic guidance” to the Council in order to “improve Council decisions…” No projects or programs are proposed in the plan. The public has until October 7, 2016 to comment on the plan. If the plan is approved, it will “supersede[] the Initial Plan approved by the Council in August 2013.”

This post highlights some of the key features of the plan, including where it fits into Gulf restoration, what’s in the plan, and what questions remain.

Changing Maps, Changing Coastal Laws & Policies

Coastal flooding
By David Roche, Staff Attorney
Thursday, September 8, 2016

Imagine a map of sea-level rise in the year 2100. You know the ones—they show many of the world’s major coastal cities inundated by blue shading. With the sea predicted to rise one to two meters over that time, those maps are showing the consequences. Billions of people and trillions of dollars will be flooded out.

However, those maps only tell part of the story. Most of the world will not passively await the blue shading to come over them. Instead, local and national governments will adapt to sea-level rise. Through a suite of adaptation strategies, they will try to reduce impacts when possible and manage retreat when required.

A SEP in the Right Direction: The Path Toward Win-Win Scenarios

Environmental Law Institute
By Scott Fulton, President, Environmental Law Institute
Friday, August 26, 2016

Originally posted on ACOEL's blog.

One of the interesting questions that emerged in the strategic planning process for the Environmental Law Institute is whether ELI could offer more support in the development and/or administration of supplemental environmental projects, or “SEPs”. 

Having played a role in the birthing of the original SEP framework in the early 1990s while at EPA, and through my own experience as a practitioner, I am convinced that penalty mitigation through the performance of SEPs can come as close to a win-win as is possible in the enforcement context. 

Lago Agrio: The Drama Continues

Guillermo Granja/Reuters
By Nora Moraga-Lewy, Research Associate
Thursday, August 25, 2016

I was in the 10th grade when I first heard about the ecological and human health disaster caused by petroleum extraction in Ecuador. A film festival in my hometown showed Crude, a documentary that details the impact of abandoned oil fields near Lago Agrio and the accompanying legal battle. Local populations whose livelihoods and health were allegedly harmed by careless corporate and government actions had been fighting to hold Texaco accountable for cleanup and compensation since 1993. The film, however, focused on several key characters that became involved in the case many years later. There were lawyers (Steven Donzigner and Pablo Fajardo), a corporation (Chevron, which acquired Texaco in 2001), celebrities (including Sting), and a young and charismatic Presidente (Rafael Correa of Ecuador).