People Places Planet Podcast

Welcome to ELI’s People Places Planet Podcast. Here, listeners can gain insight on some of the thinking behind ELI's work. Below you will find our most recent episodes.

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A lot has been said about COP28. It has been described as a success, failure, and everything in between, but what actually happened? This week, host Sarah Backer is joined by Jennifer Huang, Associate Director of International Strategies at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) and Kaveh Guilanpour, Vice President of International Strategies at C2ES. Jennifer and Kaveh discuss their experiences at COP28 in Dubai and evaluate the success of COP28 and the global stocktake in galvanizing climate action and adaptation.  

It’s undeniable that we take water access for granted – until we don’t have it or until water quality degrades, anyways. With at least forty states anticipating water shortages this year, using water efficiently is more important than ever. This week, Sarah Backer is joined by Mary Ann Dickinson, Co-Chair of the Water and Planning Network for the American Planning Association, and Adam Schempp, Senior Attorney at ELI, to discuss water conservation strategies, the influence of law, and progress toward achieving reliable and safe water supplies today and in the future. 

Associated BlogStretching the Water Supply: The Importance of Water Efficiency Measures | Environmental Law Institute (

Consumers are seeking out ethically made and climate-friendly apparel to gift this holiday season. But how do they know whether their purchases are truly sustainable or eco-friendly? This week’s podcast episode explores the rise of greenwashing claims and the role of the Federal Trade Commission in guiding the industry and holding companies accountable for deceptive marketing claims. Host Sarah Backer sits down with Carolyn Kennedy, a 2024 JD Candidate at the Georgetown University Law Center, and Derek Sabori, an apparel industry veteran with more than 26 years of experience to discuss legal and industry perspectives on sustainable fashion. 

The EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) develops the Agency’s national strategy to enforce compliance with federal environmental statutes. Led by Assistant Administrator, David M. Uhlmann, OECA sets national enforcement priorities, and coordinates with EPA regions and the U.S. Department of Justice to address environmental noncompliance, which can include civil and criminal actions. In this episode, Mr. Uhlmann joins Justin Savage to discuss OECA’s national and enforcement compliance initiatives for fiscal years 2024-2027, environmental justice, PFAS and climate enforcement goals. 

The United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 integrated goals that address global challenges, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate change, the environment, peace, and justice. Advancing the SDGs in the US would help to make the US a better place for all. In this episode, host Sarah Backer is joined by editors John Dernbach and Scott Schang to discuss their ELI Press-published book, Governing for Sustainability. The book provides a detailed set of recommendations for federal, state, tribal, territorial, and local governments, as well as the private sector and civil society organized around the SDGs. Scott and John also discuss how the SDGs offer the US a comprehensive framework to build a more prosperous, equitable, resilient, healthy – in other words, sustainable – society.

Relevant Resources:

John Dernbach and Scott Schang, Governing for Sustainability Introduction 
Goldman Sachs, The Us Inflation Reduction Act Is Driving Clean-energy Investment One Year In The Nature Conservancy, Family Forest Carbon Program 
The Washington Post, ‘Greenhushing’: Why some companies quietly hide their climate pledges 
HarperCollins Publishers, Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet 

Today is the first day of COP28, where participants will discuss the first-ever global stocktake, an assessment of global action on climate change to date. The global stocktake report includes an inventory of climate-related data which evaluates whether the world is on track to achieve the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. The goal is for countries and other actors to use these technical findings to step up political actions and set more ambitious national targets and actions, to accelerate global climate action. In this week’s episode, host Sarah Backer dives into the equity and environmental justice considerations of the global stocktake with Angela Barranco, the Director for North America at the Climate Group and Charles Di Leva, Partner at Sustainability Frameworks, LLP and Former Chief Officer of Environmental and Social Standards at the World Bank.  

Relevant Resources:  

Financial Times, UK, Canada and Germany lead fresh push against coal power at COP28 

Reuters, COP28 kicks off with climate disaster fund victory 

Glasglow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, Amount of finance committed to achieving 1.5°C now at scale needed to deliver the transition 

International Energy Agency, For the first time in decades, the number of people without access to electricity is set to increase in 2022 

The World Bank, Detox Development: Repurposing Environmentally Harmful Subsidies 

An estimated 312 million pounds of food will be wasted this Thanksgiving. In this week’s episode, host Sarah Backer is joined by ELI Senior Attorney Linda Breggin and Research Associate Elly Beckerman to discuss the food waste problem and some easy solutions for this holiday season—and throughout the year. Linda is the co-director of ELI’s Food Waste Initiative which conducts research and works with stakeholders to prevent food waste, increase surplus food donation, and recycle the remaining food scraps. Elly joins to discuss her personal experiences as a home cook invested in reducing food waste over the holidays.  

Relevant Resources: 

National Museum of the American Indian, Rethinking Thanksgiving Celebrations: Native Perspectives on Thanksgiving 

Smithsonian Magazine, Thanksgiving from an Indigenous Perspective 

NRDC, Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill  

ReFED, Americans Will Waste Nearly 312 Million Pounds of Food This Thanksgiving  

EPA, From Farm to Kitchen: The Environmental Impacts of U.S. Food Waste

The Biden-Harris administration has placed an unprecedented federal focus on environmental justice using a whole of government approach, including issuing executive orders demanding accountability and action from a broad list of federal agencies and requiring input from impacted communities. In this week’s episode of Groundtruth, Beveridge & Diamond Associate Hilary Jacobs meets with Ebony Griffin of Earthjustice for a focused conversation about environmental justice and community engagement. They also discuss how regulators and companies can meaningfully engage with impacted communities to address environmental justice concerns.

In this week’s episode of People Places Planet Podcast, host Sarah Backer sits down with Dr. Marshall Shepherd, ELI’s 2023 Environmental Achievement Award recipient and renowned scientist, to have a conversation in celebration of his work. They discuss Shepherd’s background, inspirations, and views on solutions for the climate crisis. He delves into topics like climate delayism and the need for a “climate moonshot,” providing a self-proclaimed “Weather Geek” perspective into extreme weather events, environmental justice issues, and other important climate issues facing our communities today. 

In this week’s episode of the People Places Planet podcast, Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein engages in an illuminating discussion with Vanderbilt Professor W. Kip Viscusi about the social cost of carbon—a hotly debated and frequently litigated number—that is used to quantify the harm caused by one ton of carbon emissions. They are joined by ELI Senior Attorney Linda K. Breggin and Vanderbilt Law student Kyle Blasinsky. This important number is used in developing a range of regulations and soon will be used in federal budgeting and purchasing decisions, as well as National Environmental Policy Act reviews, under a new Biden Executive Order. Professor Sunstein, an Obama Administration Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Administrator, discusses the key judgement calls that must be made in developing the social cost of carbon, such as the appropriate discount rate and approaches to incorporating equity, and offers his views on developing a number that can withstand arbitrariness review in any renewed effort to challenge the number in court. 

Professor Sunstein’s related article Arbitrariness Review and Climate Change was selected for inclusion in this year’s Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review, which recognizes scholarship that presents creative and feasible legal and policy solutions to pressing environmental problems. ELPAR is published annually by the ELI’s Environmental Law Reporter in collaboration with the Vanderbilt University Law School.