Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Environmental Legal Education in Spain

I find it interesting to consider differences among countries in the extent to which environmental law has developed into a distinct and significant field of legal study.  In the US, the field is pretty strong.  I think that most law schools offer environmental law courses and have at least one permanent faculty member who self-identifies with the field, and many have centers, journals and clinics dedicated to environmental law. In Latin America, where I have spent considerable time, environmental law was just beginning to come into its own as a field of study in the early 2000s.  Several Latin American countries – particularly Brazil and Costa Rica, which I know best – now have quite a few strong environmental law programs. 

With the rapid development of environmental law in Europe in the last 25 years, one might think that most law schools in Europe would have environmental law programs.  But I haven’t found this in Spain. I was privileged to have the chance to visit the only law school in Spain that has a true center dedicated to environmental law, the Tarragona Center for Environmental Law Studies (CEDAT, Centre de Estudis de Dret Ambiental de Tarragona) at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, about an hour south of Barcelona.  I gave a talk at CEDAT’s conference on climate change regulation and electric vehicle policies, as did Steve Weissman from UC Berkeley. 

CEDAT is impressive, with about 25 affiliated law faculty (along with others from disciplines such as chemistry, economics, and geography); an internationally-recognized Masters in Environmental Law; an environmental law journal (Revista Catalana de Dret Ambiental); and an environmental law clinic.  The relatively new university (established in 1992) was motivated to develop a specialization in environmental law to create a niche for its law school and build town/gown relationships. Tarragona is a place with a relatively troubled environment, with extensive port development, a large petrochemical industrial zone, several waste facilities, and the proximity of three nuclear reactors.

Many older law schools in Spain have not yet come to view environmental law as an important legal field. The study of EU environmental law has gained a foothold in the traditional field of public international law, but other areas of domestic and international environmental, climate, and energy law seem to get little attention. I think (and hope!) that this could be a big growth area in Spanish legal education in the next decade, and CEDAT provides a great model.

- Lesley McAllister


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