About Rónán Kennedy

Law School, National University of Ireland, Galway

Debating the rights and wrongs of civil disobedience

Something that can make for a good class is a debate. Here are two articles with different views on the sentencing of Tim DeChristopher (who bid on oil and gas leases as a form of protest):

This case, and the issues it raises, might make for a good starting point for discussion.


Interactive mapping of climate change impacts

Population Action International have put together an interactive mapping application showing the likely impact of climate change globally and regionally, with a number of variables to play with. There is a focus on the need for family planning, but it is a useful tool for getting students to think through what climate change may mean in the medium term. (Ireland seems to come out ahead on most projections, but not everywhere will be so lucky.)

Impacts of Biofuel Production

For those who are interested in the second-order impacts of the production of bio-fuels, the Institute for European Environmental Policy has produced a report entitled “Anticipated Indirect Land Use Change Associated with Expanded Use of Biofuels and Bioliquids in the EU – An Analysis of the National Renewable Energy Action Plans”, which examines the consequences of the European Union’s renewable energy Directive. This could serve as the basis for a discussion of renewable energy policy, the connections between energy policy and other environmental policies (such as bio-diversity), or the unintended consequences of legislation.

Papers from Yale/UNITAR Conference on Environmental Governance and Democracy

Papers from the 2nd UNITAR-Yale Conference on Environmental Governance and Democracy: Strengthening Institutions to Address Climate Change and Advance a Green Economy are available for download. The conference brought together practitioners, scholars and policy-makers from countries and organizations all over the world and the papers contain many useful insights.

Comparative climate law reports

For those seeking to take a comparative approach to teaching climate law, there are reports from countries around the globe (along with a wealth of similar material) available as part of the Web site for the XVIIIth International Congress of Comparative Law . This could serve as a starting point for a series of presentations, a discussion of different national approaches, or a critical perspective on domestic initiatives.

Poor science, poor policy?

In order to properly understand climate change law, it is important to understand the science on which the policy is based. If the science is incomplete, compromised or confused, the resulting policy is also likely to be low quality. In recent times, there have been a number of interesting articles about how interest groups (both environmentalists and industry) seek to influence the policy-making process in order to advance their own agenda. This may be leading to a distortion of the policy-making process. Here is one example, discussing the recent “Climategate” controversy and other events, which could be a starting point for a good discussion of the resulting flaws in the final legislative process.

“Creative accounting” in LULUCF?

There’s an interesting story in today’s Irish Times about how figures for forests sinks may be less than accurate:

EU MEMBER states and other developed countries have been accused of engaging in “creative accounting” to hide an estimated 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions every year – in their trees.

Forests serve as “carbon sinks”, so countries are entitled to subtract the CO2 stored in trees from their total greenhouse gas emissions. But if the trees are cut down for use in making timber products, as the Swiss concede, they should then be treated as “debits”.

The push for a more liberal regime is being made by developed countries covered by the Kyoto Protocol, including Ireland. They have made it clear the use of almost unlimited forest offsets is the price to be paid for agreeing deeper cuts in their emissions.

Although the story doesn’t make it completely clear, I presume this row has broken out at the talks underway in Bonn right now.

This might be interesting to explore in a number of ways. How reliable are the figures used in multi-lateral environmental agreements, and how can these be verified? How can agreement be reached on these issues in a way that protects the environment, when governments are more focused on their short-term, selfish interests? And how can a good agreement be reached when it seems that the delegates get lost in the science and the statistics?