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Monday, December 6, 2010

Salkin and Nolon's Climate Change and Sustainable Development Nutshell

Congrats to Patty Salkin (Albany) and John Nolon (Pace) on the publication of their new Nutshell on Climate Change and Sustainable Development.  Here is the book description:

This book comprehensively explores international, federal, state, and local laws and policies regarding sustainable development and climate change management.  It traces the historical development of sustainable development and climate change law, showing that they appeared on the world stage at the same time and illustrating how they can be best understood, implemented, and practiced as a single body of law and policy.

The book illustrates the initiatives taken by all levels of government to achieve sustainable development, showing how these initiatives provide important opportunities to manage, mitigate, and adapt to climate change. The Nutshell explains how the U.S. legal system, particularly its reliance on the land use authority of local governments, fosters greenhouse gas reduction, energy conservation, and sustainable patterns of growth, including energy-efficient and sustainable buildings, the use of renewable energy resources, the protection of sequestering open space, and the adaptation of buildings and communities to sea level rise and natural disasters.

Climate Change and Sustainable Development Law in a Nutshell provides the international and national context for this bottom up approach. It illustrates how national and state governments can motivate 40,000 local governments in the U.S. to use existing authority and to adapt effective local initiatives already in place to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. This is presented as a complement to other international and national strategies for climate change management.

As one of dozens of examples, the Nutshell explains that local governments in most states are charged with enforcing the energy construction code and that, in many states, they have the power to enhance that code to achieve at least 30% greater efficiency in newly constructed and substantially renovated buildings.  The building industry will provide millions of new homes and billions of square feet of nonresidential buildings to keep pace with our increasing population. Buildings consume the lion’s share of all electricity generated and are responsible for over a third of carbon dioxide emissions. Some predict that two-thirds of the buildings in existence at mid-century will be built between now and then.  The new International Green Construction Code, issued by the International Codes Council, contains techniques for extending this energy saving strategy to existing buildings. 

The Nutshell also explains how localities can reduce their carbon footprint through transit oriented development and promoting renewable energy strategies, both of which depend on local planning and land use regulation. While grander schemes are stuck for the time at the federal and international level, researchers struggle to keep up with the task of identifying and analyzing progress of this sort on the ground.

The Nutshell covers the Rio Accords, the Istanbul Declaration on Human Settlements, the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, and the 2005 and 2010 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment reports. These illustrate that the devolution of some legal authority to attack the full range of problems that hinder sustainable development is built into international agreements and the law of other nations. The book notes that the IPCC is considering including chapters on Human Settlements and Infrastructure in the Fifth Assessment Report.

Ben Barros

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