Climate Impacts on Working People

The international peer-reviewed journal Global Health Action, publishes today a series of papers on “Climate change impacts on working people”. The series primarily looks at the effects of heat exposures, but also non-heat related consequences. The full text of all articles is free to access:

CBD COP-10 and the Eve of UNFCCC COP-16

The Earth Negotiations Bulletin notes that for some, the CBD COP-10 in Nagoya “marked the re-birth of environmental multilateralism” and suggests it “exorcise the ghost of Copenhagen.” Unfortunately, Nagoya’s successes, while significant, do not resonate that profoundly.

The 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya produced a “package” of results, most notably the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization, may help to put to rest some of the most extreme predictions about the end of multilateralism in international environmental law. But it is far from a panacea. Even within the confines of biodiversity law, the COP-10 outcomes do not provide a strong likelihood of significantly reducing the extensive loss of biological diversity (which was documented in Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 shortly before the Nagoya meetings). The Strategic Plan for 2011-2020 identifies the key changes and activities needed to address biodiversity loss, but does not make any major breakthroughs.

Nagoya does not signal a new era or multilateralism, it does not make more likely binding international targets for biodiversity preservation or greenhouse gas emissions limitations. Instead, it reflects several key realities about international environmental law that should be borne in mind as the UNFCCC COP-16 unfolds. First, the Nagoya Protocol in access and benefit sharing is deeply ambiguous. This ambiguity was necessary to reach agreement. Second, the Protocol came into being only because of closed-door session among a few major players, reminiscent of the meetings that led to the Copenhagen Accord. Third, the Strategic Plan emphasizes the Convention’s role as a facilitator of national and subnational action to address biodiversity. Finally, the Strategic Plan and Strategy for Resource Mobilization deeply embrace the need to find creative and effective financing mechanisms for biodiversity preservation.

Taken together, these characteristics of the Nagoya meetings portray the current state of international environmental law fairly well. Top-down binding international environmental law is not the future of the field. In many ways, the Kyoto Protocol may be the high water mark of that approach. Instead, international environmental treaties will continue to contain the extensively qualified and ambiguous language that any student of the field is familiar with. Further, even within a multilateral UN framework, the key players in any context will likely hammer-out the main features of any agreement that can be reached – and they may do so in private. These things are not new.

Growth and development in international environmental law will come through its deeper integration into national and subnational law, and through its ability to facilitate the creation and implementation of ever more effective approaches to solving globally significant environmental problems. Authority is, and will remain, polycentric. Nations need not surrender sovereignty, but may participate in cooperative efforts that are made possible by multilateral institutional arrangements. In particular, issues such as financing, technology transfer, and monitoring are far more likely to be advanced in the context of multilateral commitments – however ambiguous they may be – than through bilateral or unilateral efforts.

In sum, Nagoya was successful for its achievements in updating several key aspects of the CBD regime, but its shouldn’t be seen as a sign that the UNFCCC COP-16 is likely to make any meaningful progress towards a Kyoto-style climate change agreement. Rather, COP-16 may be most important for the extent to which it advances the facilitative capacity of the UNFCCC regime to support a wide array of approaches to address climate change on the national and subnational levels.

Insights from Disaster Law . . . part 3

For the final installment of this series of posts on the 12th Annual Northeast Florida Environmental Summit, I’d like to highlight the presentation by Dr. Stephen Leatherman (see also here), titled “Oil Spills & Hurricanes.”  While not strictly a legal presentation, Dr. Leatherman’s talk provides an engaging expert’s perspective on the potential for a combination of disasters to strike at once along the Gulf Coast.  One takes away a much better understanding of the magnitude of risk that we open ourselves up to by engaging in riskypractices in a region prone to “natural” disasters.  Imagine the BP Oil Spill and Hurricane Katrina at the same time.  Dr. Leatherman makes clear that this potential catastrophe as not as unlikely as some may like to believe.  Policymakers would do well to be attentive to this potential in advance, although the quickly fading national memory of the BP Spill suggests that such attention won’t be forthcoming.

Along with Dr. Leatherman’s talk, readers of the blog may also want to view Professor Alyson Flournoy’s presentation, titled “The BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster: A Case Study in Regulatory Failure.”  In her presentation, Alyson highlights problems of the regulatory structure governing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, drawing on the Center for Progressive Reform report that she co-authored —  Regulatory Blowout: How Regulatory Failures Made the BP Disaster Possible, and How the System Can Be Fixed to Avoid a Recurrence.  The panel also features a presentation by Lindsay Conlon of the World Resources Institute, author of a forthcoming assessment of governance failures leading up to the BP Spill.

This panel, taken together with Dr. Leatherman’s presentation, highlight just how preventable catastrophe may be.  If the lessons of the BP Spill inform the regulation of future drilling, perhaps we will never have to experience the dual catastrophe the Dr. Leatherman outlines.

Columbia Fellowships

Applications are invited for two fellowships in climate change law at Columbia Law School’s Center for Climate Change Law.  For both, the salary will be $60,000/year plus benefits.  Applicants must have received a J.D. degree within three years prior to the beginning of the Fellowship. Strong academic qualifications and background in environmental law and policy will be expected. The Fellows will function as Associate Directors of the Center; will supervise various fellows, visiting scholars and interns; will work on a wide variety of research and writing projects; and will help organize conferences, seminars, collaborative publications, and other projects concerning climate mitigation and adaptation.

The Earth Institute Climate Law Fellowship will be for a two-year period, from September 2011 through August 2013. The application deadline is December 20, 2010. The winner will also participate in seminars and other programs of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, which is partly funding this position.

The Center for Climate Change Law Fellowship will be for a one-year period, from September 2011 through August 2012. The application deadline is February 15, 2011.

Prospective fellows may apply for one or both fellowships.  It will be assumed that those applying for the Earth Institute Climate Law Fellowship will, if unsuccessful in that application, also wish to apply for the Center for Climate Change Law Fellowship, unless they indicate otherwise in the cover letter; resubmission of their application will not be necessary.

More information about the Center is available at Applicants should submit a cover letter, C.V. and law school transcript to (no calls, please).

Michael B. Gerrard
Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice
Director, Center for Climate Change Law
Columbia Law School
435 West 116th Street
New York, New York 10027
Tel: 212-854-3287
Fax: 212-854-7946

Ad hoc group for the modelling and assessment of contributions of climate change (MATCH)

Instructors who use climate change negotiation simulations in class should take a look at the Ad hoc group for the modelling and assessment of contributions of climate change (MATCH) site. The site was constructed by a group of researchers to assess assumptions underlying Brazilian proposals for emissions reductions during the negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol. Among the data sets and analysis available on the site include:

  1. Analysis of individual countries’ contributions to climate change: scientific and policy-related choices;
  2. Tracking of uncertainties in the causal chain from human activities to climate
  3. Contributions of individual countries’ emissions to climate change and their uncertainty
  4. Historical emissions, uncertainties and contributions to climate change
  5. An analysis of whether we can reconcile differences in estimates of carbon fluxes from land-use change and forestry for the 1990s

IGES CDM Database

FYI. I have always found this to be a valuable resource for lecture materials.

Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) is pleased to announce that a series of IGES publications for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and

Joint Implementation (JI) under the United Nations Framework Convention on

Climate Change (UNFCCC) has been updated.

New Updates (Updated to November 2010):

IGES CDM Project Database

IGES CDM Project Data Analysis & Forecasting CER Supply

IGES CDM Emission Reductions Calculation Sheet: Grid Emission Factors

IGES CDM Programme of Activities (PoA) Database

IGES CDM Project Database now contains information of all the CDM project activities in the pipeline (7,206 projects in total). We also forecast future CER supply by 2012 and 2020 on the basis of IGES CDM Project database.

IGES and UNFCCC secretariat has signed the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the exchange of CDM data in May 2008 and have since agreed on the implementation for further collaboration of CDM/JI data analysis. Now we’re closely cooperating to synchronize the CDM data managed by UNFCCC secretariat with IGES CDM database to enhance the quality of data and its analysis for public and internal use.

To download our publications:

In English:

In Japanese:

Carbon Market Perspective Available

The UNEP Risø Centre is pleased to announce the 2010 issue of its Carbon Market Perspectives: Pathways for Implementing REDD+: Experiences from Carbon Markets and Communities.

This year, the publication reflects the current experiences about implementing REDD+ activities at project and community levels and goes beyond opportunities afforded by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) by including voluntary markets. The articles presented discuss and propose ideas about how to create incentives to participate in REDD+, its implementation, and possible financing; how to involve the private sector; what are the experiences from the carbon markets, and present ideas on how to engage communities in REDD+. The authors have been carefully selected to reflect a mix of different perspectives from the private sector, country negotiation teams, research institutions, and carbon market organizations. They share their insights and ideas on various important aspects and issues for the debates on a global REDD+ mechanism in the ongoing climate negotiations.

The Carbon Markets Perspectives 2010, is produced with financial assistance by the European Commission, through its joint UNEP/EU Program for Capacity Building related to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Countries, of which the CDM forms part.

The 2010 Carbon Market Perspectives, is available for downloading:;

Previous years Carbon Market Perspectives is also available for download at:

On behalf of the editors, best regards,

Miriam Hinostroza

Miriam Hinostroza, Ph.D.

Head of Programme

Energy&Carbon Finance

Phone: + 45 46 77 51 80

Fax: + 45 46 32 19 99

Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy
Technical University of Denmark – DTU

Frederiksborgvej 399, Bldg. 142
P.O. Box 49

U.S. EPA Regulation of Ocean Acidification under the Clean Water Act?

The U.S. EPA released  a memo yesterday stating that insufficient monitoring methods and nascent environmental data exists – therefore will not regulate OA under CWA 303(d) and will not be establishing TMDL’s at this time.  Due to

seasonal and regional fluctuations in pH, the EPA has determined that most states have insufficient data to find that OA is impairing their water bodies.  States are encouraged to continue research in OA to learn about

this problem, and specifically to study already impaired or sensitive waters.  States are also encouraged to list their own imparied waters for pH under existing regulation (6.5 – 8.5, +0.2 natural varialtion) and to list

OA as the source if enough data has been collected to reflect this.  Lastly, EPA stated that they will provide guidance as assessment methods of OA improve.

Workshop on Teaching About Complex Systems

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to let you know about two opportunities with application deadlines of November 22:

– Teaching about Complex Systems Using STELLA- a one day workshop in association with the AGU meeting

– Visiting Workshops offered by the Building Strong Geoscience Departments project.

Details and links are below.  I hope that these are of interest.


1. The Cutting Edge program presents a one-day workshop on Teaching About Complex Systems Using the STELLA Modeling Software in conjunction with the fall AGU meeting. Numerical modeling is a widely used tool in the Earth and Environmental Sciences, but can be intimidating for students with limited mathematical backgrounds and/or math anxiety. In this workshop, we present STELLA, an iconographic box modeling software package particularly beneficial in teaching basic modeling skills and in fostering student understanding of complex systems. Workshop participants will have the opportunity to work with existing models of phenomena such as radioactive decay, climate change, and thermohaline circulation, and will also work with other participants to generate new models to meet their own course needs. Discussions will cover such topics as the pedagogical value of teaching students how to model, and strengths and limitations of the STELLA software.

This workshop is designed for instructors who are interested in incorporating numerical modeling exercises into their courses in order to:

– Facilitate student understanding of complex systems

– Develop students’ quantitative and problem solving skills

– Develop students’ abilities to apply the scientific method

The registration deadline has been extended to November 22, 2010. For more information, please contact Kirsten Menking (kimenking at or David Bice (dbice at

Insights from Disaster Law . . . part 2

One very important aspect of climate change law and policy that receives too little attention is the role of insurance as a driver of behavior, including solutions to climate change risks and impacts.  Professor Sean Hecht provided a very cogent analysis of the topic at the 2010 Northeast Florida Environmental Summit in a presentation titled The Role of Insurance in Climate Change Risk Management and Adaptation.  In the presentation, Sean discusses the potential and obsticles for insurance companies and their products to improve climate resilience through creating new markets, promoting resilience-building behavior, and providing compensation following costly events.  Several of Sean’s articles on related topics are available for free download here

Professor Hecht spoke on a panel with Dr. Walter (Tony) Rosenbaum, whose presentation titled Has Flood Insurance Become Development Assurance?: The Federal Role in Mitigating Flood Hazard Risk is also available at this video link.  Tony’s presentation provides an excellent overview of the relatively little-known flood insurance program, including the huge potential liability connected with it and the policy implications of making affordable insurance available for building in flood-prone areas.