Friday, January 8, 2010

First Course in Sustainable Natural Resources Development Series Reaches Successful Conclusion

The first course in the 2010 Sustainable Natural Resources Development Series came to a close Friday, with the final day being dedicated to student presentations and a wrap up session led by Luke Danielson and Cecilia Dalupan, two of the three adjunct professors who partnered in teaching the course.

Mr. Danielson, a Gunnison, Colorado, attorney, is known world-wide for his work in this field. Ms. Dalupan, who also has wide experience in this field, is a licensed attorney in Colorado and the Phillipines and associate director of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation. The two are principals in the consulting firm Sustainable Development Strategies Group.

The course, "The Emerging International Framework in Sustainable Natural Resources Development," began Jan. 4 and ran throughout the week. The intense, one-week course (sessions began at 8 a.m., broke for lunch, and continued to 5 p.m. each day) included presentations by an impressive group of outside speakers as well as presentations by Mr. Danielson, Ms. Dalupan, and David Szablowski, assistant professor of Law and Society at York University in Toronto.

Students and presenters from a range of countries including Argentina, Canada, Ghana, Nigeria, and the U.S. took part in the course. Students enrolled in the course included JD, LLM, and Masters of Resource Law Studies candidates. By all indications, the course was a great success, with students learning about the emerging framework at international level aimed at governing -- at least to some degree -- the natural resources sector. Topics covered included activities by the UN and industry associations to regulate this sector to the growing use of actions filed in the U.S. under the Alien Tort Claims Act seeking damages for torts committed outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. Speakers included economists, scientists, lawyers, and businessmen.

By week's end, the students had benefited from hearing and reading about many perspectives from an entire range of practitioners and specialists in this area.

The series will continue with one week courses in June and August and a one-semester course from mid-August through November. The courses, each of which is a three-credit course, are open to DU College of Law students as well as other graduate students and professionals. The remaining 2010 courses are:
  • June 2-5: "National Legislation and Policy for Sustainable Development of Natural Resources;" click here to see a video of Mr. Danielson discussing this course.
  • August 9-13: "Community Expectations for Sustainable Development in Natural Resources Projects;" click here to see a video of Mr. Danielson discussing this course.
  • Fall Semester: "Experiential Capstone: Sustainable Natural Resources Development Practicum," which will be led by Prof. Ann Vessels, director of the College of Law externship program.
More information about the entire series is available by clicking here.

This series of courses, the first of its kind offered by an American law school, will result in a certificate of specialization in "Sustainable Natural Resources Development" for all students who have been admitted to DU's Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Graduate Program. For more information about the program, please contact Lucy Daberkow by clicking here.

Clean Technology Investments Total $5.6 Billion in 2009

Nearly $5.6 billion in clean technology investment deals were agreed to in 557 deal in 2009 according to The Cleantech Group, which provides advisory services and market research for the clean technology sector. This amount may grow between $250 and $500 million once all the deals are accounted for, according to the Group.

Nicholas Parker, Cleantech Group executive chairman, said, "Record levels of activity from investors, governments and corporations in 2009 demonstrated that the market for clean technologies continues to strengthen regardless of any non binding global climate change agreement."

In 2009, there was a "surge in utility power purchase agreement (PPA) announcements with solar thermal and solar photovoltaic accounting for 80 percent of the total PPAs, while wind saw increased capacity announcements in the second half of the year aided by the extension [in the U.S.] of the production tax credit," Cleantech said.

The DU College of Law continues to be a leader in teaching about renewable energy and energy efficiency. For example, this semester key figures at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the U.S. government's focal point for research on renewables and energy efficiency, are teaching a class called "Renewable Energy and the 21st Century: Policy, Law, Technology, Markets."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Recent LLM Graduate Jose Henriquez Sends Regards From Sunny Santiago

For those of us in the northern hemisphere, there is hope that winter will be replaced (at some point) by summer!

And this picture, from Santiago, Chile, is evidence of that.

Jose Henriquez, a December 2009 LLM graduate from Santiago, Chile, is shown in the picture along with his parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, and little niece. They are enjoying a nice summer's day in the southern hemisphere as well as his full time return to his home country.

Jose graduated in December 2009 and returned to sunny Santiago about mid-December. It was a pleasure to have him in Denver and to get to know him as well. Jose comes from a long line of attorneys, with his mother, father, and grandmother members of the legal profession. He joins a select group of Chilean lawyers who have competed the LLM program at DU. We salute Jose on his achievement and look forward to staying in touch with him (and hopefully visiting his país bonito) in the future.

For any of you professional basketball fans, you will be able to tell quickly which one is Jose. He's the guy with the "Nuggets" shirt on! (The Denver Nuggets are the local team in the National Basketball Association.)

¡Feliz año nuevo a Jose y la familia de Jose! Happy new year to Jose and his family!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

New Law in China Bolsters Renewable Energy Industry

In late December China's legislative body, the National People's Congress, passed an amendment to the country's renewable energy law under which electricity grid companies, which are owned by the state, will be required to buy all renewable energy output generated in China.

State-owned grid companies that refuse to abide by the new law will be "fined up to an amount double that of the economic loss of the renewable energy company," the Xinhua News Agency reported ("China Amends Law to Boost Renewable Energy Law," Dec. 26, 2009). While in 2008 China generated the fourth largest amount of wind power in the world, about one-third of it never reached the grid, Xinhua reported.

"Renewable energy power in the country's resource rich, underdeveloped northwestern region must be sent to the resource-scarce, prosperous coastal area," Wang Zhongying, Energy Research Institute head of renewable energy development, told Xinhua.

Bearing this in mind, one of the major challenges facing China is the absence of a "smart grid" that could obviate some of the transmission issues associated with bringing more renewables to load centers. This observation has been made by many including, most recently, an article in The Wall Street Journal ("Chinese Law Aims to Increase the Use of Renewable Energy," Dec. 28, 2009), in which reporter Shai Oster writes, "China's electricity-grid operators need to develop a smarter network to handle how to dispatch electricity generated by wind or solar energy, which fluctuates widely depending on weather patterns, and to relate it to demand for power, which swings in different cycles."

The transmission issues sounds rather familiar, don't they. There is a great deal to be done -- whether in the China, the EU, or the U.S. -- to address the transmission issues.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"Emerging International Framework in Sustainable Natural Resources Development" Short-Course Begins; Need for Global Investment Rules Highlighted

The cutting edge series Sustainable Natural Resources Development kicked off its 2010 course offerings with the "Emerging International Framework for Sustainable Natural Resources Development," a five-day intensive short-course being offered by the DU College of Law.

The course, which is the first in a four-course series that will take place in 2010, is led by three outstanding practitioners in this area: Luke Danielson, a Colorado attorney with significant experience working in the natural resources sectors; Cecilia Dalupan, an attorney licensed in Colorado and the Philippines who also has a long-time career in issues involving sustainability and natural resources; and David Szablowski, assistant professor of Law and Society at York University in Toronto and author of Transnational Law and Local Struggles: Mining Communities and the World Bank. Mr Danielson and Mr. Dalupan are also principals in the Sustainable Resources Strategies Group.

Monday's course included an overview of the "rules of the road for global natural resources development" and consideration of "where these rules might come from" from Mr. Danielson. There was discussion of one treaty regime, involving climate change, and lessons that might be learned in terms of the natural resources sector that was presented by Ms. Dalupan.

A highlight of Monday's session was a presentation by Doug Silver, CEO and chairman of International Royalty Corporation (IRC). IRC is a global mineral royalty company that holds 84 royalties.

Mr. Silver addressed the topic of "Why Natural Resources Investors Want There to be Some Global Rules," a matter of immense importance in terms of issues that are key to investors in the natural resources sector. In his role, Mr. Silver talks with investors on a regular basis. He noted that mutual fund managers tend to have considerable interaction with the companies in which they hold stock. "The investors are part of the company, so when I am talking about things I am doing in the business I talk to them," he said.

As a result, Mr. Silver is a unique position to speak about what investors want to know about the minerals business. He brought that unique perspective into Monday's session.

In summary, he said investors want standards in place in the minerals sectors "because investors want to be able to compare investments." In particular, investors are concerned with reporting in four key areas:
  1. Resources and reserves
  2. Accounting
  3. Physical environment
  4. Social environment
By having access to these standards, investors can compare one investment opportunity with another. In most instances investors look for a standard reporting scheme because the more different standards are involved, the more difficult it is to make a definitive comparison. For that reason, the use of international standards is becoming more important. Being able to rely on a common set of standards works to "de-risk" an investment, he said, since there is no need to learn the nuances of different systems.

Looking ahead, he mentioned that there are several key concepts to bear in mind in large minerals-related development projects:
  1. Cross border deals are now normal
  2. Using a common set of standards leads to better transparency, which is a core principle of sustainable development
  3. The International Financial Reporting Standards scheme is becoming the focal point of minerals related-projects.

Leading European Parliamentarian Says it is Time for UN to Abandon "Consensus Style" Decision-Making

Determining whether the recent UN Climate Change Conference was a success or not depends in large measure on one's own perspective.

But what remains without doubt is that the UN decision-making process that requires consensus -- among more than 190 member states -- is a very difficult bar to reach under any circumstances. Bearing that in mind, is there something that the UN might learn from the European Union, another governmental body that has faced its own challenges over time with consensus-based decision-making?

Guy Verhofstadt, a member of the European Parliament from Belgium and chair of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, thinks the UN can benefit from the evolution of the EU's decision-making process.

Writing in the Financial Times recently ("UN Should Tread Brussels' Path in Climate Talks," Dec. 23, 2009), Mr. Verhofstadt, offered the following observation:
If consensus among all parties is required to formally approve a declaration or commitment, then the UN process has severe limitations. Nothing meaningful will ever be achieved to tackle climate change if unanimity remains the rule.
Mr. Verhofstadt, went on to suggest that changes in the EU's decision-making process could help inform a change at UN level:
Perhaps the UN could take a leaf out of the European Union book and examine whether its consensus-based decision-making is sustainable for the sake of the planet and its own credibility. The EU has had to constantly adjust its procedures to make decision-making both possible and more efficient. The recently approved Lisbon Treaty was designed with this precise goal in mind as it had become clear that forging a consensus with 27 member states on highly complex and often technical matters was unmanageable if just one country could hold everyone else to ransom. Majority voting [in the EU] is now the norm.
Mr. Verhofstadt concludes that making decisions based on majority voting is perhaps "a path the UN may have to take in order to extract some concrete commitments to tackle climate change before it is too late."

While his ideas are worth considering, it may be worth bearing in mind that the EU and the UN are very different organizations with different objectives. Nevertheless, something like this should clearly be on the UN's agenda for consideration.

Monday, January 4, 2010

French Carbon Tax Rejected by Constitutional Court

A carbon tax that would have taken effect Jan. 1, 2010, in France has been struck down by the French Constitutional Court. Had it come into law, the tax would have made France the largest economy in the world subject to a carbon levy.

A multitude of exemptions that were written into the law created a "breach of the principle of tax equality," the court ruled.

Among the sectors that were exempted by the law were cement plants, power producers, and oil and gas refineries, The Wall Street Journal reported ("French Court Rejects Carbon-Emissions Tax, Dealing Blow to Sarkozy," Dec. 31, 2009). The law would have provided for a $25 per ton levy on carbon emissions. Interesting enough, the tax was challenged by the left of center Socialist Party. President Nicholas Sarkozy's right of center party proposed and passed the legislation.

Despite the decision, Mr. Sarkozy's party is expected to write a revised version of the legislation in January. Prime Minister Francois Fillon said a carbon tax continues to be a "priority for the president of the republic and the government," the Financial Times reported ("Sarkozy Fights to Save Flagship Carbon Tax," Dec. 31, 2009).

In fighting his election campaign in 2007, Mr. Sarkozy pledged that reducing carbon emissions would be a top priority of his government.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

"Global Sustainability:" A Promising Job Path, The Wall Street Journal Reports

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reports that green technology and global sustainability are two career paths that look particularly promising.

The story ("Landing a Job of the Future Takes a Two-Track Mind," Dec. 29, 2009) notes that, "Career experts say the key to securing jobs in growing fields will be coupling an in-demand degree with expertise in emerging trends."

The story goes on to say, "Not surprisingly, green technology, including solar and wind energy and green construction, are...booming areas." The wind and solar industries will require individuals involved in the design, auditing, and installation and maintenance of the systems, the story said.

The key aspect of global sustainability will be related to how costs can be reduced by firms that adopt sustainable business plans, Greg Netland of Sapphire Technologies told the Journal.

This brings to mind the major new "Sustainable Natural Resources Development Series" that the Sturm College of Law will launch next week. Click here for more information on the series, which is a first of its kind in the Western Hemisphere and reflects DU's commitment to being the leading natural resources law school in the U.S. and far beyond.