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China has declared “war on pollution” with several new environmental laws and the willingness to take action against climate change.  Awareness of the severe and lingering environmental problems in China is increasing, both domestically and externally.  Does this truly mean that China will finally take meaningful, active steps to combat air, water and land pollution, or are the initiatives merely aspirational with other issues continuing to take precedence despite much promising rhetoric?  In this podcast, Myanna Dellinger interviews three law professors with unique insight into Chinese environmental law and its potential enforcement.

Joseph W. Dellapenna is a Professor of Law at Villanova Law School.  His research focuses on water management (national and international) and international and comparative law.  He has previously taught at several universities in the United States and abroad.  He is the only person ever to be a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in Law in both the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China.  Professor Dellapenna has also served as a consultant to numerous private entities and foreign governments, including the World Bank, the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the People’s Republic of China, as well as the Republic of China.  Professor Dellapenna lived for two years in China and still returns several times a year for professional purposes.  He lived in China for two years and speaks Mandarin.

Joel A. Mintz is a Professor of Law at Nova Southeastern Law Center where he has taught courses related to environmental law since 1983. Before entering academia, Professor Mintz was an enforcement attorney and chief attorney with the EPA in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Widely viewed as one of the nation’s leading legal academic experts on environmental enforcement, Joel Mintz has testified before the United States Congress on the subject and published three books and numerous book contributions and law review articles regarding it. Professor Mintz is also the author or co-author of six other books regarding environmental law, sustainability, and municipal debt financing. He is a recipient of several awards for his work as an attorney, teacher and scholar.  He is also an elected member of the American Law Institute and a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation.

Alex Wang is an Assistant Professor of Law at UCLA School of Law.  His research focuses on Chinese law, politics, and environmental regulation. Professor Wang previously served as senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Beijing and as the founding director of NRDC’s China Environmental Law & Governance Project. In this capacity, he worked with China’s government agencies, legal community, and environmental groups to improve the environmental rule of law and strengthen the role of the public in environmental protection.  He helped to establish NRDC’s Beijing office in 2006. He was a Fulbright Fellow to China from 2004-05. Professor Wang was a fellow of the National Committee on United States-China Relations (2008-10) and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Advisory Board to the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations.

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Looking beyond COP21: How will asset owners respond to an international climate agreement and the global energy transition to low-carbon?

Given the sluggishness of regulatory action against climate change in most nations and at the international scale, many companies continue to derive significant income from activities that endanger the climate. 

In turn, many professional investment companies such as pension funds, mutual funds, in the US and Europe, and sovereign wealth funds invest in such “high carbon” assets, placing pension savers’ and other stakeholders’ assets at great risk.  The level of risk-taking represented by high-carbon assets leaves investment fiduciaries open to legal liability. That is the argument advanced by the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP), considered in this episode.

AODP is an independent not-for-profit global organization whose objective is to protect retirement savings and other long-term investments from the investment risks posed by climate change by improving disclosure and industry best practice.

This podcast features the CEO of AODP who explains how climate change represents significant risks to portfolio value for the world’s largest investors. Two guest lawyers speak to the rise of fiduciary trust and securities law as new drivers of action on climate change risk by institutional investors around the world.  The experts are interviewed by Myanna Dellinger, Associate Professor of Law with the University of South Dakota School of Law.
  • Julian Poulter is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of the AODP.
  • Sarah Barker is a Special Counsel in the Corporate Group in Minter Ellison's Melbourne office, and has published extensively on trustee fiduciary duty and climate risk. Ms. Barker provides advice to AODP on climate risk and fiduciary duty in the Australian context.
  • Jay Youngdahl is a partner in the Houston-based law firm, Youngdahl & Citti, P.C. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at the College of Business at San Francisco State University and has been a Senior Fellow with the Hauser Institute’s Initiative for Responsible Investment at Harvard University. Mr. Youngdahl provides advice to AODP on fiduciary law and climate change risk in the United States.

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On March 1, 2015, a group of experts in international law, human rights law, environmental law, and other law adopted the Oslo Principles on Global Obligations to Reduce Climate Change. These experts came from national and international courts, universities and organizations located around the world.
In part one of two podcasts on the Oslo Principles, Professor Myanna Dellinger interviews Michael Gerrard, Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice and Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School in New York.  Professor Gerrard is a world-renowned expert on environmental law and in particular climate change law.
Part two will consist of an interview with  Philip Sutherland, a professor at the Stellenbosch University Faculty of Law in South Africa who also contributed to the formulation of the Oslo Principles.

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Starting in the spring of 2015, the city of Berkeley, California, will require that warning labels featuring the following text be affixed to gas station pumps:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that consumption of energy products derived from fossil fuels contributes to climate change. To learn about how you can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, go to: www.cityofberkeley.info/fuel.

The Western States Petroleum Association has threatened to file suit, claiming that the labeling program imposes "onerous restrictions" on businesses and "compels speech in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution."  

In this podcast, hear Myanna Dellinger and Dr. Wil Burns discuss with two Berkeley energy and community environment advisory commissioners why the city chose to require gas stations to use such labels, what the expected health-related and environmental effects will be in and beyond the San Francisco area, and why the city believes it is on a strong footing in relation to a potential lawsuit based on the requirement.

Agenda of the Berkeley City Council meeting of Tuesday, November 18, 2014 .  The Western States Petroleum Association has not responded to our request for the Association’s view on the matter.  Should such comments be provided to us in the near future, they will be featured in an individual podcast here.

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