The Role of Ethics in the Legal Response to Climate Change: Perspectives from Environmental Law
Wednesday, November 19, 200812:00-1:30 PMGuyot Hall Room 10
Discussant: TBD Lunch will be served in Guyot Hall atrium 11:30-12:00 PM
Professor Freeman is Professor of Law and the founding Director of the Harvard Law School Environmental Law Program. Her work in environmental law focuses on the design of governance institutions, regulatory tools and decision making procedures; most recently, she is working on climate related institutional design. Professor Freeman authored an amicus brief, on behalf of Madeleine Albright, in MA v. EPA, the global warming case decided by the Supreme Court in 2007. Her analysis of the implications of the case, MA v. EPA: From Politics to Expertise, appears in the most recent issue of the Supreme Court Review. In another recent article, Timing and Form of Federal Regulation: The Case of Climate Change, Professor Freeman explains how state efforts to address climate change are likely to help shape federal regulation (in Penn L. Rev. with DeShazo). Her 2006 book, Moving to Markets in Environmental Regulation (with Kolstad), is a collection of essays by leading legal scholars and economists analyzing how well market mechanisms of environmental regulation have performed compared to command and control regulation.
Professor Freeman will discuss the role of ethics in contemporary environmental law and regulation. Despite the rise of environmental ethics and “deep ecology” in the 1970s, environmental law remains anthropocentric in focus—only people have legal rights and obligations. Federal environmental statutes are primarily aimed at protecting public health and safety; they reflect a concern about balancing environmental protection with economic growth. Natural resource management statutes focus primarily on extraction and consumption, not the preservation of nature for its own sake. The most significant developments in environmental law of the last 25 years are the rise of cost benefit analysis as a decision tool, and the emergence of market mechanisms as a preferred instrument of regulation. The important ethical debates in the field concern not obligations to nature, but rather obligations to one another and future generations. Climate change, which raises important distributional questions about intergenerational equity and burden-sharing between the developed and developing worlds, presents opportunities for a resurgence of ethics in this narrower sense, but the debate will be framed within a larger economic discourse. [click here for video of the lecture]