Through its presence at Conferences of the Parties (COPs), at which signatory countries to United Nations agreements validate and adjust the implementation of environmental goals that have been set since the 1992 Rio Conference, the Centre for Environmental Law and Global Sustainability aims to achieve international exposure for its members’ expertise in environmental law, and to expand the University of Ottawa’s outreach and impact at discussion forums.
Water governance, biodiversity protection, carbon pricing, climate targets and the ethical harvesting of natural and agricultural resources are among the issues central to the collaborative research, education and knowledge mobilization by the centre’s some 30 members as they endeavour to further legal knowledge.
The centre, co-directed by Professor Heather McLeod-Kilmurray of the Faculty of Law’s Common Law Section and Professor Thomas Burelli of the Civil Law Section, seeks to become a forceful player in the areas of climate justice, energy transitions and environmental sustainability in Canada and abroad.
With Montreal currently hosting the 15th United Nations Conference on Biodiversity, Professor Burelli talked to us about the objectives and the impact of the centre’s participation in the COPs.
What impact does your participation at these forums have?
It’s a unique learning opportunity for the students and researchers! Even when they take part remotely, our accredited observers have access to all of the online platform content. That allows us to keep close tabs on what are often technical subjects, and to be at the Centre of discussions on crucial issues affecting the protection of the environment and biodiversity.
This has generated collaboration with new partners, for example at COP 27 with a researcher from Oxford University, as well as networking opportunities with stakeholders, including those from the Canadian delegation.
Our participation in the COPs enables us not only to raise our profile in the media and social media (consider, for example, our analysis on COP 27 published on the Conversation website), but also to further our efforts to mobilize knowledge on issues raised at the negotiations, such as recognition of traditional knowledge, water governance and rights of access to digital sequence information on biodiversity, to name but a few.
“The University now has permanent status, which will allow our entire research community to take part in discussions at future COPs on climate and biodiversity.”
Professor Thomas Burelli
— Co-director of the Centre for Environmental Law and Global Sustainability - University of Ottawa
How does your participation contribute to increasing the impact of research on environmental policy?
Our presence at COPs gives the University of Ottawa the necessary legitimacy to request accreditation within the Canadian delegation, which consists of representatives of governments, associations and oil companies. There were 370 of them in Egypt.
That opens doors to meetings with federal and provincial ministers in the Canadian delegation, and to future COP negotiations (subject to confidentiality agreements). This is a key part of the gradual strategy that the centre is implementing to strengthen its position and to expand its influence on policies that concern global issues.
Our members include lawyers who are extensively involved in Canadian public policy and to whom we turn for expertise in major national environmental issues, including the carbon pricing case at the Supreme Court of Canada. We want to capitalize on that expertise, continue to build bridges and partnerships internationally, and help the University to be represented and recognized as a stakeholder that is fully invested in these international forums on the environment.