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On the Environment

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
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American Electric Power v. Connecticut

By Guest Author, Yaron Schwartz, Research Assistant, Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy

In a creative effort to curb carbon emissions, six states, along with New York City and several land trusts, decided to pursue a different policy tactic than previous environmental campaigns. Rather than lobbying for Congressional legislation, this coalition sued five major electric utilities and the Tennessee Valley Authority in 2004, claiming that their emissions constituted a public nuisance and, therefore, should be regulated by the courts under federal common law. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court, bringing national attention to this environmental campaign and issue.

This week, however, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of the defendants in American Electric Power v. Connecticut. The Court stated that it was the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as charged under the Clean Air Act to regulate US carbon emissions, not that of the courts. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argued, "Congress set up the EPA to promulgate standards for emissions, and the relief you're seeking seems to me to set up a district judge, who does not have the resources, the expertise, as a kind of super EPA."

While undoubtedly a setback for those who desire real reductions in U.S. carbon emissions, this case may still have a silver lining. By highlighting the responsibility of the EPA to set standards for carbon emissions, the Court has placed renewed pressure on the EPA to take meaningful action on climate change. The Court’s decision has also clarified the stakes for all concerned. As long as Congress refuses to address climate change through new legislative solutions, the EPA will remain the only national policymaking body in the United States with the ability to tackle the problem.  Efforts to impede or constrain EPA’s regulatory authority under the Clean Air Act now seem doubly dangerous.

Read the Court’s official decision in American Electric Power v. Connecticut.

Posted in: Environmental Law & GovernanceEnergy & Climate
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
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Time trends in trade and CO2 emissions: digging deeper

By Guest Author, Ainsley Lloyd, Research Assistant, Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy

In a recent study on trade and the environment, the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy conducted a pilot time trend analysis, painting a clearer picture of the complex relationship between country-level CO2emissions and trade intensity. The analysis examines changes in trade intensity (as seen through trade as a percent of GDP) alongside two measures of CO2 emissions—CO2 per capita and CO2 per GDP. The former CO2 measure indicates emissions intensity per person, while the latter indicates the emissions intensity of the economy.

Time trends show that the most common phenomenon is a decline in emissions per GDP with increasing trade intensity, an indication that economies become more carbon efficient as trade becomes a greater portion of GDP. However, the data also reveal a troubling trend among countries: emissions per capita most commonly increase with increasing trade, an indication that trade might be harmful in terms of emissions.

Figure 4.1

The exciting news—at least for those interested in trade and environmental quality—is that this trend is by no means universal. Many countries have managed decreasing emissions per capita with increases in trade intensity. This elite group includes many European nations—Germany, France, the UK, Sweden and Denmark—as well as several countries in the Americas—Belize, Colombia, and Cuba.

While considerable work is still needed help deepen understanding of the complicated relationships between trade and the environment and while the statistical findings do not support drawing conclusions about causation, it is interesting to pose the question - what are these nations doing differently?

Downloads:
Executive Summary.
Press Release.

Full Report.
Data (Beta Version).

Posted in: Environmental Performance Measurement
Friday, June 10, 2011
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World Oceans Day

By testpersona

Did you know that June 8th was World Oceans Day?  Keep your eyes peeled next February for the release of the world's first Ocean Health Index, put together by Conservation International, the National Geographic Society, and the New England Aquarium.  

 

 

 

 


The Index's goals are much the same as our land-based Environmental Performance Index - to develop an analytically rigorous and data-driven approach to assessing the health and well-being of the world's oceans, to track and measure ecosystem vitality and public health, and to better inform policymakers.  Check out more about the Index at http://bit.ly/crmTyl and check out our Q&A session with Steve Katona, Managing Director of the project.


Posted in: Environmental Performance Measurement
Thursday, June 02, 2011
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Yale Report Explores Environmental Impact of Trade

By Guest Author, Mitch Jackson, VP, Environmental Affairs & Sustainability, FedEx Corporation

The Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy has issued a report titled, Exploring Trade and the Environment: An Empirical  Examination of Trade Openness and National Environmental Performance. I am pleased to say that FedEx sponsored this report, since the issues of both trade and environmental sustainability are of great importance to us. This study came about as a result of our sponsorship of the 2010 edition of the Yale Center’s annual Environmental Performance Index, an analysis that measures the environmental performance of 163 countries.

I will not go into the report here, but you can find links to the press release and report here. An intriguing point noted in their press release, however, is the following:

“One notable finding is that a subset of developing countries, such as China, India, and Mexico, have experienced trade growth while also decreasing their greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP.”

This is encouraging, and it tends to support the idea that trade, and the economic growth that goes with it, increases the capacity of countries to improve their environmental performance. It also reminds me of our work on Access, which includes a great deal of data analysis. What is Access? Well, taking directly from our Access site:

“Access, put simply, is the ability to connect. Access is powered by anything that makes it easier for people and  businesses to connect with each other — whether it’s a smartphone or a  computer or the ability to ship a package overnight to anywhere in the world.  When Access expands, it empowers people with the ability and confidence to  improve their current conditions and future prospects. Access creates new opportunities, accelerates and simplifies global connections and changes what’s possible.”

This post, by Mitch Jackson, VP, Environmental Affairs & Sustainability, FedEx Corporation, was originally published on the FedEx website.

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