Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflections on a Successful and Productive Year; Thanks to Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni, Adjuncts, Friends of the Program

As 2010 nears an end it is only appropriate to reflect back on the people and events that made the year such a successful and productive one for all of us associated with the Environmental and Natural Resources Law (ENRL) program at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

It is nearly impossible to call attention in this year's final blog posting to everything and everyone that really merits attention, and so what we have tried to do is identify a handful of illustrative examples of why our program is the best of its kind in the U.S. and the western hemisphere. In reading this last posting of the year readers will also note the Sturm College of Law's continuing commitment to further expanding and developing a program that already is considered one of the best in the world.

So with that, let's begin.

The Blog

  • This year marked our 20,000th blog "hit." We are now averaging about 1,600 hits a month, something we thank all of you for!
  • We have enjoyed contributions from near and far (for example, Argentina, Chile, the European Union, Peru, the Philippines, Thailand, to name a few).
Program Highlights
  • The Sturm College of Law and the University Board of Trustees adopted an ambitious and far-reaching strategic plan for the College of Law. One of the key elements was the naming of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law program as a "flagship" program.
  • The College of Law established an Environmental and Natural Resources Law Certificate for JD graduates.
  • The LLM and Masters in Resource Law Studies programs attracted the most diverse group of students in the history of the program. Students from 14 different countries studied at the College of Law during 2010, making the DU ENRL program one of the most -- if not the most -- diverse program of its kind in the U.S.
  • A new series of three three-credit cutting-edge courses that consider the sustainable development of natural resources was added to the curriculum: (1) Emerging International Trends in Sustainable Natural Resources Development; (2) Sustainable Natural Resources Development and Nation States; and (3) Community Expectations and Sustainable Natural Resources Development. The courses are taught by Luke Danielson, an attorney with vast experience in the field and Cecilia Dalupan, Associate Director of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation and an expert in the field.
  • A new course Renewable Energy for the 21st Century: Technology, Policy & Markets was approved by the faculty. It is taught by Robert Noun, Director of External Affairs at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Faculty Highlights
  • Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Fred Cheever continued to provide strategic leadership to the ENRL program.
  • Professor K.K. DuVivier wrote several ground-breaking articles about renewable energy.
  • Professor Mike Harris, Director of the Environmental Law Clinic, provided leadership for one of the nation's most effective student clinic experiences.
  • Professor Jan Laitos was a guest professor at the Austral University in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • Professor Rock Pring and his wife Kitty continued to lecture world-wide about their pioneering book, Greening Justice: Creating and Improving Environmental Courts and Tribunals.
  • Professor Tom Romero, who joined the faculty in August, was active in tying together the strands that link history with the environment.
  • Professor Don C. Smith, Director of the ENRL Program, produced several interviews with leading environmental figures from across the world.
  • Professor Ann Vessels, Director of the College of Law Externship Program, continued to expand one of the country's largest legal externship programs.
  • Professor Annecoos Wiersema, who joined the faculty in August, established a Sustainable Development Reading Group for the faculty.
  • Professor Ed Zieglar resumed teaching in August after a year long stint teaching and researching at various European law schools.
Student Highlights
  • Students in the Environmental Law Clinic continued their important and successful work on behalf of several outside clients.
  • Nearly 10 students won prestigious scholarships from the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation.
  • Many, many students were involved in externships that ran the gamut from federal, state, and local governments, to private law firms, to NGOs and advocacy groups.
Thanks, Merci, Gracias

The number of people who deserve a big thank you for the program's successes is so long it would take a year to name everyone. But a few who come to mind for special recognition:
  • All of the adjunct professors that are an integral part of the program. These individuals are the top practitioners in their fields and they give of their time and energy to make this program a practice-focused experience for our students.
  • The entire library staff, and especially Gary Alexander, Director of the Library, and International, Foreign, and Comparative Law Librarian Joan Policastri and Caryl Shipley. The College of Law library contains a vast amount of information that is key to our program's success, and the library personnel deserve a big thank you for all the time they spend supporting our students and program.
  • The Educational Technology Department, headed by Director Jessica Hogan. Wayne Rust, Saul Wiley, and Joan Pope make all of our lives easier and more efficient.
  • The program's wonderful and engaged alumni. The ideas, support, and energy provided by all of you continually enrich and enhance a program that "belongs" to all of us.
  • The multitude of "friends of the program," who while may not having formal connections to DU nevertheless provide us perspectives and ideas that improve the program.
Without question, we have been unable to include everything and everyone that made 2010 a great year. That is the problem with these kinds of lists. And so next December we will strive to be even more complete.

Looking ahead, we wish all of our readers a wonderful final day of 2010 and a Happy New Year for 2011! ¡Próspero año Nuevo en 2011!

Don C. Smith
Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program

Lucy Daberkow
Assistant Director
Environmental and Natural Resources Law Graduate Program

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December LLM and MRLS Graduates: Celebrations and Official Recognition

Without question, one of the most satisfying times of the academic year is when graduating students are recognized and their accomplishments celebrated.

December 2010 was certainly no different for the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program. Lucy Daberkow, Assistant Director for the ENRL Graduate Program and I, were delighted to wish all of our graduates well and extend to them best wishes as they begin their professional futures.

These pictures represent two of the key events during December. The first picture depicts the scene at the December graduation ceremony. The picture illustrates the diversity of our program as well as the fact that our graduates are a very impressive group! Beginning on the far left is Alex Aidaghese, originally from Nigeria and currently an LLM student; me; Juliet Briggs, LLM graduate from Nigeria; Payal Sathe, LLM graduate from India; Lucy; Eva Kuoni, LLM graduate originally from Mexico who now lives and works in Denver; Kris Ellis, MRLS graduate from the U.S.; Tonye Oki, 2005 graduate who is originally from Nigeria but now lives and works in Denver and teaches "Negotiating Natural Resources Law Agreements," in the ENRL program. The two very young ladies in front -- many of you will recognize them right away -- are Emma (left) and Amelie (right) Daberkow from the classes of 2025 and 2027 respectively.

One of the aspects of the graduation ceremony that Lucy and I very much enjoy is meeting the families of our graduates. Everyone at the ceremony -- the proud parents, spouses, children, significant others, friends -- each enjoys the event and has their own personal pride in the graduate they have come (many times long distances) to recognize. Lucy and I salute all of these individuals as well since they have often made significant sacrifices and have provided enormous encouragement along the way to support their graduate.

The second picture was taken after a graduation lunch where Lucy and I celebrated with three of our graduates, Ms. Briggs next to me, Ms. Sathe, Lucy, and Ms. Kuoni on the far right-hand side of the picture.

Some of the graduates were not able to attend either event, but we also wish them well.

We experience these occasions with mixed emotions. On one hand, it is difficult to realize that we may not see these graduates again for a very long time. But on the other hand, it is exciting and satisfying to watch them go forth and put to use what they have learned.

In biding these students goodbye and good luck, Lucy and I are reminded of the words of the famous British historian Edward Gibbon: "The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators."

Don C. Smith
Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program

Monday, December 27, 2010

"A Change of Climate in Cancun:" Adjunct Professor Cecilia Dalupan Reflects on This Month's UN Climate Change Meetings in Mexico

What a difference a year makes. Leading up to the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen in December of 2009, expectations had been enormously high. The goals were tremendously challenging - international binding agreements on a post-2012 climate framework, including controversial issues such as the fate of the Kyoto Protocol and whether the U.S. and developing countries like China would agree to carbon emission reduction commitments. Those meetings were marked by a number of large protests and covered by intense media scrutiny as the biggest political names arrived and over 30,000 delegates from governments, NGOs, business, and other sectors attempted to complete negotiations in a conference complex built to hold 15,000 people.

The atmosphere at the COP 15 negotiations and some of the language used in meetings there struck me as negative and unproductive, sometimes downright toxic. In the end, negotiations in Copenhagen were not completed as originally designed under the action plan decided by the parties two years before in Indonesia (the Bali Action Plan or BAP), and the limited agreements made were to continue the work and to “note” the voluntary Copenhagen Accord put forward by a number of delegations.

In contrast, expectations for the 16th COP in Cancun talks were manageable, even low, and media attention seemed scant especially by comparison with Copenhagen. This was particularly true for the United States where domestic issues on the legislative agenda dominated the news. It turns out that a sober and reasonable level of media coverage may actually be more productive, as the 24-hour news cycle which thrives on sound bites and hyperbole often can not reflect the sensitivities and complexities of multilateral negotiating processes, much less the difficult and often very technical substance of negotiations.

When I arrived for the second week of COP 16 in Cancun in early December, the differences I immediately noted were obvious but, as it turns out, not superficial – sunny and much more pleasant climate (pun intended) and improved logistical arrangements. Noting the even more obvious heavily armed security forces all over the place as I left the airport, I arrived after what seemed like just a few minutes at Cancunmesse, the first conference center which housed among others, registration, NGOs, media and many party (country/delegation) offices. I recalled, in contrast, the bitter cold and long lines at the massive complex at COP 15 in Copenhagen.

From Cancunmesse, all delegates and accredited representatives had to take shuttle busses to the Moon Palace where negotiating meetings were held. While both venues were situated along the Hotel Zone, they were several kilometers apart. While I heard some complaints about this lay-out, it was probably more manageable for security reasons and it did avoid the over-crowding that often characterized COP 15 and contributed to the already high level of stress there.

The COP 16 organizers apparently took some logistical notes from COP 15 and the results were impressive. I would soon conclude that that this may have been the case not just with respect to logistics, but also to the negotiating process itself. As is typical with most COPs, there were multiple meetings that took place almost every hour of the day dealing with the many different parts of the puzzle that make up the ongoing negotiations towards new global agreements on climate change.

The distinct and increasingly complex parts of the puzzle fall under two main negotiating tracks: the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP). These two parallel but inter-connected tracks were decided at COP 13 in Bali. Under these working groups were a multitude of negotiations on many different sections.

I noted a generally positive and at times even upbeat tone of negotiations. Bouncing back from the disappointments at Copenhagen, there also seemed to be a real desire to move forward with clear accomplishments, however modest, to set the stage for other difficult issues that will hopefully be addressed and agreed upon in South Africa in late 2011. The host Mexican delegation, led by their Foreign Secretary and President of COP 16, Patricia Espinosa (picture to the left), constantly emphasized transparency in negotiations and recognized the importance of avoiding even the perception that closed-door meetings were being held with select parties or that alternative texts were being developed outside of the main negotiating sessions.

These negotiations, as with other UN processes, seem to have a language all their own consisting of acronyms, too many and sometimes too long (although it has been difficult to avoid some that I’ve already used here such as COP, AWG-LCA, AWG-KP, BAP etc). I also noted more than ever at these meetings the (over)use of certain catch phrases, for example, “form follows function” (or substance) in the meetings that I followed on the legal form of the outcome of negotiations.

I believe that the two assertions often heard in the different sessions, while used at times to mind-numbing, mantra-like proportions, ultimately and actually ended up characterizing – and saving - the negotiations. These were the terms, “party-driven process” and “let’s not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”

At the end of the day, it appeared to me that the overriding sentiment of more than 190 delegations was that the agreements made in Cancun reflected the consensus of the parties, that parties believed that their work drove the process and the outcome. To my knowledge, there were no controversial closed-door meetings or parallel texts and the consensus seemed to be that the Mexican delegation, in its leadership role, went to great lengths to undertake consultations in a transparent manner. Common ground was reached on a number of issues on which compromises were made, and equally recognized was the need to continue working on unresolved issues such as mitigation commitments. The substantive agreements and outcomes of these meetings are now incorporated in official instruments, also known as the Cancun Package, all of which are posted on the UNFCCC website (

The final day of negotiations that began on December 10 and ended the following day reflected these substantive agreements, but probably more importantly, the progress made on process. President Espinosa - greeted with a standing ovation at the plenary - announced that consultations had been taking place and new consolidated texts had been developed which reflected on-going negotiations, emphasizing that these were not “Mexican texts” (inevitably calling to mind the “Danish text” that was circulated at Copenhagen).

Parties were given a few hours to study these texts and when the plenary session resumed after 9:00 pm, many parties took the floor in general support of adopting the texts with their positions marked by words such as inclusiveness, trust, transparency, and flexibility. And yes, “let’s not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good.” Delegations, including China and the United States, concurred with adoption and were met with applause, sometimes cheers. Bolivia, however, maintained its position against the texts citing, among others, the lack of clear agreement on the Kyoto Protocol and mitigation targets. The general plenary adjourned, followed by the AWG-LCA and AWG-KP plenary sessions which commenced after midnight.

At about 3:00 am, the general plenary reconvened and adopted decisions on both the outcome of the work of both negotiating tracks despite the lone resistance of Bolivia. President Felipe Calderon (picture to the left) of Mexico later addressed the plenary, citing among others the confidence regained in the UN process, and he too was met with a standing ovation.

While the COP decisions in Cancun are not a global treaty, they are legal agreements adopted as official UNFCCC decisions, unlike the Copenhagen Accord. A number of the Accord’s provisions - such as emission reduction pledges and a $100 billion per annum Green Climate Fund for mitigation and adaptation programs in developing countries – are now formal agreements under the UN process.

A key message and outcome from Cancun was renewed confidence in multilateralism, however guarded or tenuous. The decisions adopted there moved the negotiating process forward and parties have reason to be cautiously hopeful that broader international agreement might be possible.

There was a moment during the plenary when a delegate who was seated somewhere up front stood up and turned around to walk to the back of the very large conference room. The camera was focused on the podium, and the delegate walked front and center of the camera’s view, prominent on the three massive screens up front. As the delegate walked and realized this, he quickly raised his hand and waved, causing laughter to break out among the thousands in the hall. That shared humorous moment was a fitting symbol of both our common humanity and capacity for convergence – the most important reminders from Cancun.

Cecilia Dalupan
Adjunct Professor

Editor's note: Cecilia Dalupan has attended meetings of the UN Framework Convention of Climate Change in Bonn, the Hague, Buenos Aires, and most recently at Copenhagen and Cancun where she served as one of the civil society advisors to the Philippine Delegation. She is an Associate Director of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation. She is also a principal of the Sustainable Development Strategies Group together with Luke Danielson, and both are adjunct professors at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law co-teaching the courses on Sustainable Natural Resources Development.