Friday, October 8, 2010

ENRL Director Don C. Smith Attends Brussels Product Launch of "Manual of European Environmental Policy," the Authoritative EU Environmental Law Source

Recently I attended the on-line product launch of the Manual of European Environmental Policy (MEEP), the most highly-respected environmental publication of its kind in the 27-member state European Union. (Until now the publication has only been available in print.)

To say that EU policy makers have great respect for the MEEP is hardly an overstatement since two former chairs of the powerful European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety, Ken Collins and Caroline Jackson, have served on the the board of directors of the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), which produces the content for the MEEP. Ms. Jackson served as chair from 2005-2010.

The Institute, with offices in Brussels and London, is considered by many EU watchers to be the authoritative source when it comes to understanding the context, consequences and even to some degree the future of EU environmental policy. In fact, I would go so far as to say that anyone -- irrespective of where in the world they are -- who wants to know about the "state of the art" in terms of environmental policy making is entirely missing the boat if they do not know about and consult the MEEP on a regular basis. Put simply, there is no substitute for the context-setting and careful analysis provided by the MEEP.

This summer I was asked to join the MEEP Editorial Advisory Board, an offer I was delighted to accept since I have been a North American observer of EU environmental policy for more than a decade now. Beginning with my role as an Associate Publisher in the Elsevier Science Environmental Science and Technology group in the late 1990s, I became interested in how the EU was trying to "decouple" economic growth and environmental degradation.

It was during this period that I completed a Master of Laws (LLM) from the University of Leicester (England) Faculty of Law in European Union Law. (My thesis considered the impact of the EU's commitment to sustainable development in relation to its desire to build out a more coordinated transport system, a topic I found particularly fascinating in light of the fact that the U.S. has considered nothing of the sort.) Since 2005 I have taught about EU Environmental Law & Policy.

Consequently, the opportunity of playing a role, albeit a minor one, in what I consider the gold standard of EU environmental policy publications was one that thrilled me.

During the event (and afterwards at dinner) I was able to meet and enjoy the company of a veritable "who's who" of European Union environmental policy including (in alphabetical order):
  • Camilla Adelle, IEEP Associate and Managing Editor of MEEP
  • David Baldock, Director of IEEP
  • Andrew Farmer, Senior Fellow at the IEEP and Editor-in-Chief of MEEP
  • Nigel Haigh, Director of IEEP from 1980 to 1998 and the founder of the MEEP
  • Ralph Hallo, Director of Brussels Strategies, a European public affairs consultancy based in the Netherlands
  • Sir John Harman, Chairman of the U.K. Environment Agency from 2000-2008
  • Caroline Jackson, former member of the European Parliament from the UK
  • Hugo G. von Meijenfeldt, Deputy Director General, Ministry of the Environment in the Netherlands and special envoy for climate change
It was an enormously interesting experience for me to listen to these leaders consider the current issues facing the European Union. The "richness" of the dialogue between and among these leaders was as enjoyable as anything I have encountered in quite some time.

To be sure, the EU has its challenges and its obstacles. In particular, the EU can only wait and wonder whether its climate change policy will catch on in the rest of the world. Last December at the Copenhagen UN climate change conference, the EU found itself a bit wrong footed when other members of the international community could not figure out who was speaking on behalf of the EU. That was a loss for the EU and one that must be remedied for the EU to be taken more seriously on the global stage.

On the other hand, the 27 member state governmental entity seems -- at least for the time being -- committed to delivering on its climate change policy initiatives. Moreover, the EU is setting global environmental standards in any number of economic sectors (more on that in a few days).

In summary, while my meeting with the luminaries of EU environmental policy was relatively brief I hope it is the first of many such meetings in the future. And before anyone jumps to a conclusion and reports me to The Wall Street Journal editorial page as being "too pro European," let me say that the solutions that may work in the EU will not always work in the U.S. and vice versa. But gaining more understanding of how a different group approaches environmental issues -- many of which are the same as in the U.S. -- is not only beneficial for me, but also the students I teach and the readers of this blog.

I look forward to continuing to think and write about the EU, its environmental aspirations, and how those aspirations might inform those of us who while not living in the EU are very interested in how a different group approaches its environmental challenges.

(As a footnote, the MEEP is now published by London-based Earthscan, which has a wonderful reputation for publishing timely and important environmental, energy, and natural resources publications.)

--Don C. Smith

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