Press release: IAIA Institutional Award

Sabin Center for Climate Change Law Wins Award from International Association for Impact Assessment

February 22, 2018 – Columbia Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law has been selected as the winner of the International Association for Impact Assessment’s (IAIA) 2018 Institutional Award for its outstanding efforts in climate change and the law governing environmental impact assessment (EIA).

“In the face of growing climate change threats, the Sabin Center’s work on the law governing environmental impact assessment is absolutely vital in advancing climate action,” said Gillian Lester, Columbia Law School Dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law. “I am proud that the Sabin Center’s efforts are recognized for their real impacts in the environmental law sphere.”

The IAIA Institutional Award recognizes the Sabin Center’s legal efforts aimed at advancing the use of EIA as a tool for climate change analysis, mitigation, and adaptation planning. These efforts include model protocols, surveys, and submission of comments:

  • The Sabin Center has developed model protocols for evaluating climate change effects in two contexts: (1) environmental review documents for buildings and infrastructure proposals and (2) environmental review and related planning documents for natural resource management proposals.
  • The Sabin Center has conducted several surveys to track consideration of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts in environmental impact statements prepared by federal and state agencies since 2009.
  • Last year, executive director Michael Burger and Jessica Wentz published Downstream and Upstream Greenhouse Gas Emissions: the Proper Scope of NEPA Review,
  • The Sabin Center frequently submits comments on environmental review documents prepared for proposals, such as the approval of coal leases and oil and gas infrastructure. It also comments on NEPA guidance documents, such as CEQ’s draft guidance on climate change and NEPA.
  • Faculty Director Michael Gerrard is co-author of a leading treatise, Environmental Impact Review in New York, and has been writing an annual review of New York EIA cases for the New York Law Journalsince 1990, as well as many other articles on the subject.
  • Jessica Wentz wrote a report on Using Online Databasing to Unlock the Full Value of Environmental Impact Assessments.

​“The U.S. National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 originated the practice of environmental impact assessment, and it has since expanded worldwide to become a standard part of planning for infrastructure and many other kinds of projects,” says Michael Gerrard, faculty director of the Sabin Center. “Now that extreme weather events worsened by climate change are threatening many cities, it is especially important that impact assessments consider future climate projections — better to know before you build if the site may be under water in a few decades. The Sabin Center is pleased to be advancing this practice, and we’re gratified by the international recognition.”

IAIA is the leading global network on best practice in the use of impact assessment for informed decision-making regarding policies, programs, plans and projects. The IAIA Institutional Award is presented to a national or international government or non-governmental organization for outstanding contribution to impact assessment practice or other environment-related activity deserving of recognition.

“We devote a good deal of time thinking through, writing about, and advocating for ways to mainstream climate change considerations into environmental review,” says Michael Burger, Executive Director of the Sabin Center. “It is deeply rewarding to see our work recognized by the leading practitioners in the field.”

The award will be presented at the IAIA annual conference event in Durban, South Africa (16-19 May 2018). The theme of this conference will be Environmental Justice in Societies in Transition.

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