Center for Climate Change Law Launched at Columbia

Center for Climate Change Law Launched at Columbia

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Media Contact: Elizabeth Schmalz
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Columbia Law School Public Affairs
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Environmental Law Powerhouse Joins Faculty

December 11, 2008 (NEW YORK) – Columbia Law School is launching a major initiative to advance an effective legal response to climate change, and push forward the requisite alterations in behavior of government, corporations, non-profits and individuals. 
The Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School will work with government and the private sector, and will launch interdisciplinary efforts within the University, to provide the framework in which environmental regulations are examined and shaped, and future leaders in climate change law are trained.

Michael B. Gerrard, a leading voice in climate change law,
head of the New York office of Arnold & Porter LLP, and a partner in its Environmental Practice Group joins Columbia Law School’s faculty as professor of professional practice and director of the new Center, effective January 2009. 

“Whether driven by government or corporations, domestic and international policy related to climate change and energy independence is rising to the top of the global agenda,” said David M. Schizer, dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law. “Mike Gerrard’s unparalleled experience in advancing environmental law to mitigate climate change adds depth to our scholarship in this area. Drawing on Columbia’s expertise and independence, the Center will help develop the complex legal structure necessary to manage behavior that impacts the environment.”

Gerrard spent the past 14 years at Arnold & Porter, most recently as managing partner of the 110-attorney New York office. Upon joining the Columbia faculty he will become Senior Counsel to the firm.
Gerrard said there are many established environmental groups, but that the Center for Climate Change Law will have an important distinction of being affiliated with one of the most respected universities in the world.

“An effective legal response to climate change, one not narrowed by tunnel vision or subverted by a thousand cuts, will require the intensive attention of dedicated lawyers who understand the profound implications of what might seem like subtle differences in statutory or regulatory language, and who act independently of any corporation, industry or other interest group of political constituency,” Gerrard said. “The legal academy provides this environment.”

Many areas of law, beyond environmental, will play important roles—corporate, securities, real estate, property, international trade, intellectual property, tax, energy, human rights, contracts, criminal, and others.

“Very complicated legal regulations are going to be established and The Center will provide a framework in which these regulations can be examined and future leaders in climate change law can be trained,
said Gerrard. “The Center for Climate Change Law intends to influence the decisions that are made, now and into the future. It aims to be an engine of innovation for the development of legal techniques to fight global warming.”

The Center will work with Columbia’s existing programs, including The Earth Institute, one of the world’s leading academic centers for addressing climate change, and will benefit from the proximity to and established relationship with the United Nations.

“Much of the most important research in this area is being conducted at Columbia, which gives us added traction,” he said. “But much of this research has not yet found its way into the regulatory system.
Scientists, engineers, economists, lawyers, and scholars from other disciplines, working together, can accomplish more than the sum of their parts.”

Gerrard is author or editor of seven books, including Global Climate Change and U.S. Law. Two of his books were named “Best Law Book of the Year” by the Association of American Publishers. He has been an environmental law columnist for the New York Law Journal since 1986. He formerly chaired the American Bar Association’s 10,000-member Section of Environment, Energy and Resources.

Gerrard has previously served as an adjunct professor at Columbia, teaching a seminar on hazardous waste law. He has also taught at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the New York University School of Law. In his new position he will teach courses and seminars on climate change law and on environmental law.

Even before he earned his J.D. as a Root Tilden Scholar at New York University School of Law in 1978, Gerrard was on the cutting edge of environmental cases. His work as a student and later as a young lawyer at the now-defunct boutique firm, Berle, Kass & Case, was key to the defeat of the infamous Westway highway project. The proposed roadway would have required that 10 percent of the cross section of the Hudson River be landfilled for the project. Activists defeated it because officials failed to prepare an adequate environmental impact statement.

The Center for Climate Change Law already has a lead funder in the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, which initiated it with a kick-off challenge grant. The Foundation has provided substantial funding for the professorship to be held by Gerrard. 

Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, criminal and environmental law.