State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Major Gift Will Expand Center for Climate Change Law

160648[1]Columbia Law School’s Center for Climate Change Law will be newly expanded with a major gift from the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation. The center, an affiliate of the Earth Institute, has been renamed the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law.

In 2009, the Sabin foundation, founded by environmentalist and philanthropist Andrew Sabin, provided funding to help launch the center.The new $3.5 million funding, to be given over five over five years, is aimed at strengthening the center’s work. It will allow the center to bring on a full-time executive director, in addition to its existing staff of junior lawyers, research assistants and teaching assistants. It will also support the annual Sabin Colloquium on Innovative Environmental Law Scholarship.

“Congress has not enacted a major new environmental law since 1990, and that is not likely to change any time soon,” said the center’s director, Michael B. Gerrard, who is one of the nation’s top environmental law experts. “Thus our mission is especially vital—developing new legal tools within the existing statutory framework to tackle this extraordinarily important problem.” The gift “will allow us to increase the scope and impact of our work, and assures the long-term operation of the center,” he said.

The center advances effective legal techniques and tools to fight climate change, regularly providing policymakers and legal researchers around the world with information on climate litigation, legislation and regulations. The center will continue to work closely with scientists at the Earth Institute, and with governmental, nongovernmental and academic organizations.

The center’s work in the past year included leading the effort to secure a novel pact under which the New York power company Con Edison will plan and implement state-of-the-art measures to protect its electric, gas and steam systems from the effects of climate change. The center also issued an influential report rating U.S. states’ climate change preparedness, and a study describing legal tools that state and municipal governments can employ to discourage or prevent development along coastlines threatened by sea level rise.

Gerrard has also taken a leadership role in advising small island nations about the legal implications of rising sea levels, and convened experts from around the world to address the challenges of climate change. The American Bar Association recently published the second edition of his groundbreaking book Global Climate Change and U.S. Law (coedited by Harvard Law pofessor Jody Freeman).

Andrew Sabin is the president and sole owner of Sabin Metal Corp., a global precious-metals refinery company that maintains stringent environmental management policies. He has provided grants to numerous environmental organizations, and projects that preserve endangered species. He has purchased land to protect natural habitat, and regularly conducts hands-on fieldwork. Twenty-five years ago, he founded the South Fork Natural History Museum. In 1987, he participated in an expedition to Papua New Guinea that led to the discovery of a new species of frog now named for him (Aphantophryne sabini). He is also a member of Columbia Law School’s Environmental Law Advisory Council.


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