Why Lawyers Should Care about Sustainable Development
John C. Dernbach
Widener University - Commonwealth Law School
Environmental Forum, Vol. 19, July/August 2002
This essay aims to persuade the U.S. environmental law profession that sustainable development is important to them, in their various roles as advocates, counselors, and citizens. Sustainable development is increasingly important to their clients, businesses, causes, or communities. As federal, state, and local governments move to sustainable development, they will need the guidance of the legal profession in the fundamental law reform that is required, including not only better environmental statutes but also the widespread adoption of new legal instruments such as economic tools, tax laws, property laws, and land use and planning authorities. Corporations will need the service of counsel to embrace the new, more comprehensive system of regulation, incentives, and contracts, including implications for compliance and liability, as well as opportunities for profit. Citizen organizations will need the best possible lawyering to ensure that implementation protects the public interest.
Environmental lawyers should also care because sustainable development is important to the future of America. Sustainable development is squarely within the U.S. national interest, as traditionally defined â014 in our economic interest, in our social interest, in our security interest. The United States is by far the world's largest consumer of energy and materials, and the world's largest polluter, so it is impossible to achieve sustainable development on a global basis without U.S. participation in a broad international effort, including implementation across American society. In turn, U.S. economic health depends on foreign resources and foreign markets, including, importantly, those in the poorer countries. Given the threat to our nation and our planet, however, sustainable development may require more than participation by attorneys; it may imply a new professional duty.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 14
Keywords: sustainable development, environmental law, legal profession, lawyer, attorney, legal ethics, pollution control
JEL Classification: K32, Q28, Q38, Q48, Q01
Date posted: March 10, 2008 ; Last revised: July 23, 2015