International Environmental Law

What if someone just does it?

A scenario exercise on unauthorized use of solar geoengineering

Note: This post is co-authored with Jesse L. Reynolds, who recently completed an Emmett Institute Geoengineering Governance Fellowship As the climate crisis grows more urgent, unconventional technological responses are getting increased attention and controversy. We’ve written previously on Legal Planet about these technologies and their promise and risks. The most high-stakes and controversial of these …

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Major International Climate Developments

China and the EU took important steps forward this week.

This week has seen some big climate moves on opposite sides of the world. The EU has proposed a major new climate plan. Meanwhile, China is ready to go live with its emissions trading system. The U.S. is at risk of being left behind. The EU’s proposal is impressive. The goal is to cut  net …

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Guest Contributor Kate Mackintosh: 200 Words to Save the Planet—The Crime of Ecocide

Photo of Permanent Premises of the International Criminal Court

Could ecocide become the fifth crime to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court?

Last month, a panel of international lawyers chaired by Philippe Sands and Dior Fall Sow launched our proposal for a new crime of ‘ecocide’ – an international crime of environmental destruction that would sit alongside genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression at the International Criminal Court. The idea of ecocide …

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The Turning Tide

Last week featured some remarkable developments relating to climate policy.

Some events last week sent a strong signal that the tide is turning against fossil fuels.  Each of the events standing alone would have been noteworthy. The clustering of these events dramatizes an important shift. To paraphrase Churchill, this may not be beginning of the end for fossil fuels, but at least it is the …

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Another Historic Climate Court Ruling in the Netherlands

A court orders Shell to cut its emissions, including of its consumers. But will this stand after appeal?

In recent years, The Netherlands has become the leading site of climate change litigation. Contrary to expectations (including my own!), its district, appellate, and supreme courts decided in favor of Urgenda, an upstart environmental organization, ordering the government to more aggressively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now the same district court has gone further, again in favor of environmental groups …

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War and the Environment

War brings devastation to people’s lives. And to the planet itself.

This post was delayed due to a technical problem at Legal Planet, but it was originally scheduled for Memorial Day — an apt date to think about how wars, along with their other tragic costs, impact the environment. We are now in the process of ending our “Forever War” in Afghanistan. The country has been …

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Offering “Carrots” to Protect the Amazon

Brazil flag

Brazil asks for a billion dollars to slow deforestation. Would this be cooperation or extortion?

In March, US President Joe Biden invited the leaders of 40 countries to a virtual climate change summit, which takes place today and tomorrow. During the lead-up to this, many countries announced commitments of varying specificity and firmness to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (I hope to write soon on the European Union.) Brazil’s position is …

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The US National Academies on Solar Geoengineering Research and Governance

Reflecting Sunlight: Recommendations for Solar Geoengineering Research and Research Governance (2021) cover

Four Emmett Institute scholars react to an important new report

A few of us are part of the Emmett Institute’s Geoengineering Governance Project, where we study the legal and policy issues presented by solar geoengineering and carbon dioxide removal technologies. On the former set of technologies—that is, reflecting a little incoming sunlight to cool the Earth and temporarily counteract heating from greenhouse gases—the US National …

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“NIABYs” Obstruct Important Climate Change Research

Not in my backyard

Some activists say “not in my backyard,” but strident opponents of solar geoengineering argue “not in anyone’s backyard.”

A peculiar type of activism is manifesting with regard to solar geoengineering. This proposed set of technologies to reduce climate change has been subject to only a few outdoor experiments. One has been in the pipeline for almost a decade: The Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx) would involve the launch of a balloon into the …

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Dawn of a New Era

Trump’s relentless war on the environment has finally come to an end.

A new chapter began when Joe Biden took the oath of office. That moment also marked the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, which featured efforts to roll back over a hundred environmental regulations. Biden campaigned on an ambitious plan to curb climate change, which he must now try to implement with a razor-thin control of …

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