Lee DeHihns, a member of the firm’s Environmental & Land Development Group, has recently been appointed to chair the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Task Force on Sustainable Development. The Task Force—consisting of lawyers and non-lawyers from relevant ABA entities; the United Nations (UN); the Environmental Law Institute; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and other multinational organizations and nongovernmental organizations—will review and make recommendations regarding the involvement of the ABA in implementing sustainable development matters worldwide.
Lee, as Chair of this Task Force, how do you personally hope to shape the discussion on sustainable development?
In two ways. First, my focus will be on educating ABA lawyers on the importance of what to do when they encounter Sustainable Development issues in their law practice. Second, the Task Force will undertake several actions to demonstrate how ABA lawyers can bring value to this important global topic.
What specific issues do you see as the most critical to address?
With diminishing natural resources, steps must be taken to protect the planet’s future. Those issues are highlighted fairly well in the United Nations report from the 2012 Rio+20 Conference “The Future We Want."
What goals do you hope to accomplish during your tenure?
Our success will be measured by how well we have made Sustainable Development an area of law practice that the ABA will champion in future years.
In terms of the evolution of environmental law over the last few decades, where are we now compared to where we were when you started practicing law?
In 40 years the practice of environmental law has advanced to where the U.S. President and other world leaders openly discuss how environmental policies need to be shaped. Environmental issues are constantly in the news because the public has a so much better understanding of how their physical environment is affected by things that both they and their neighbors (nearby and far away) do.
What do you see as the future of the broader concept of “sustainable development” on a global scale?
How to deal with global climate change is perhaps the most publicized sustainable development issue, but with many people in the world still without clean water to drink and only 25 percent of African citizens with access to reliable electricity, we have much work left to do.