From the Dean
The Changing Climate of Environmental Law
In this issue of the Bulletin, you will see how hard Harvard Law School has been working to ensure that it has an environmental law program truly worthy of its students and alumni—and how this program is fast becoming an international leader in showing how law schools (and lawyers) can actively shape a field that will in many ways determine the world’s future.
The director of our program is Professor Jody Freeman LL.M. ’91 S.J.D. ’95, an important and wonderfully creative environmental and administrative law scholar who joined our faculty three years ago and brings to the program a striking combination of energy, charisma and vision. More recently, we have had the extraordinary good fortune to recruit Cass Sunstein ’78, whose expertise in environmental law—as in so many other fields, including administrative law and policy, constitutional law and theory, and behavioral economics and law—makes him the most wide-ranging, prolific and influential legal scholar of our time. And, our environmental program also benefits from a remarkable younger scholar, Matthew Stephenson ’03, whose talents and energies are already yielding enormous dividends.
Until fairly recently, environmental legal practice was built mainly on litigation, but today—largely because of the growing perils posed by greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change—the field is expanding well beyond that model. For this reason, HLS students are learning to tackle environmental issues in new ways—through team-based problem-solving built on solid grounding in statutory, regulatory, and international law and making use of interdisciplinary approaches that bring science, economics and other academic perspectives to bear. (If these strategies sound familiar, they should—they are also central to our recent comprehensive curriculum reforms.)
At the heart of our environmental program is our new environmental clinic. Under the guidance of the terrifically accomplished Wendy Jacobs ’81—one of our newest clinical professors—HLS students are involved in a growing array of placements that give them a chance to effect change in the real world. For example, some have been helping the Kansas secretary of health and environment fend off a legal challenge to his denial of a permit for a coal-fired plant—the first such denial based on reasons of climate change. Others are focused on ways of encouraging investors to make environmentally conscious investment choices. And, some have gotten involved in the nitty-gritty of advocacy before the EPA and other federal and state agencies.
And of course, the efforts—and impact—of our students continue long after they graduate. As you’ll read in these pages, many of our alumni are leaders in the search for solutions to pressing environmental issues, in places ranging from Alaska (where, after the loss of 20 percent of the Arctic sea ice, some alumni have crafted a legal strategy to fight carbon emissions) to the Philippines (where Antonio Oposa Jr. LL.M. ’97 continues his efforts after bringing a landmark suit that established a plaintiff’s standing to sue on behalf of future generations in an environmental case).
I am enormously proud of everything our students and alumni are doing. I am especially grateful, too, for the support of those of you who have helped us build our environmental program into what it is today—especially Dan Emmett ’64, David Bonderman ’66 and Joy Covey ’89, whose vision and extraordinary generosity could not have come at a more critical time.
As you read this issue of the Bulletin, I hope you’ll share my pride in the work that students, faculty and alumni are doing to tackle the environmental dangers we all face—and my determination that Harvard Law School continue to make a difference in this vital sphere of law and policy.
Dean Elena Kagan '86