Professor David Takacs is a proud UC Hastings alumnus. He also holds an LL.M. from the School of Oriental & African Studies at the University of London, and a B.S. (Biology), M.A., and Ph.D. (Science & Technology Studies) from Cornell University.
He has been a consultant for international NGOs and US government agencies, analyzing legal and policy issues pertaining to REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) and global climate change. His scholarly work addresses carbon offsetting, biodiversity conservation law, and the human right to water. He is the author of The Idea of Biodiversity (Johns Hopkins U. Press). In 2017, he received the Rutter Award for Outstanding Teaching at UC Hastings.
Before his legal career, David was a professor in Earth Systems Science & Policy at CSU Monterey Bay, a lecturer in the John S. Knight Writing Program at Cornell, and a Peace Corps Forestry Volunteer in Senegal.
Areas of Expertise (6)
Climate Change Law
Earth Systems Science
International Environmental Law
Global Climate Change
University of California Hastings College of the Law: J.D., Law
University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies: LL.M., International Law
Cornell University: Ph.D., Science & Technology Studies
Cornell University: M.A., History and Philosophy of Science
Cornell University: B.S., Biology
Selected Articles (5)
This collection of essays is the initial product of the second meeting of the Environmental Law Collaborative, a group of environmental law scholars that meet to discuss important and timely environmental issues. Here, the group provides an array of perspectives arising from the Fifth Assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Each scholar chose one passage from one of the IPCC’s three Summaries for Policymakers as a jumping-off point for exploring climate change issues and responding directly to the reports. The result is a variety of viewpoints on the future of how law relates to climate change, a result that is the product not only of each scholar’s individual knowledge but also of the group’s robust discussion.
Public funders and private investors are pouring billions of dollars into Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) in the developing world. In REDD+, investors pay people to preserve carbon in trees, and then sell credits based on the stored carbon to those who wish to offset their own greenhouse gas emissions. REDD+ promises a dynamic synergism that mitigates climate change, conserves biodiversity, and alleviates poverty. When done poorly, however, REDD+ may dispossess already impoverished people from their sources of sustenance and may do little to mitigate climate change or conserve biodiversity. Including indigenous, forest-dependent, and other local people in all aspects of planning and implementing REDD+ is not only prudent practice — it is increasingly required by international law, and, I explain, is an essential ingredient in sustainable (effective, synergistic, and equitable) REDD+ Yet fulfilling these Environmental Democracy norms is nigh impossible in REDD+. What then? In this project, I review the current international legal status of Environmental Democracy, i.e., the right to participate in environmental decision making; the right to acquire information on environmental decisions; the right to redress and remedy when environmental rights are violated; and the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent when decisions are made that will affect vital resources and lands. I explain and expand current thinking of how the aspirational language of the principles ought to be implemented, and connect the principles’ relevance to REDD+, currently the most important laboratory for expanding Environmental Democracy in international conservation and development work. To illustrate how Environmental Democracy is or is not working in REDD+, I explore examples from Vietnam and Cambodia, where I conducted fieldwork in December 2012. I conclude that while stakeholders in REDD+ are making progress towards genuine Environmental Democracy, they have a ways to go to fulfill their legal and ethical obligations towards communities in which REDD+ is launching. After explaining why genuine Environmental Democracy in REDD+ is currently impracticable — and perhaps impossible — I conclude that REDD+’s promised benefits nonetheless justify carefully continuing it.
To compensate for a grave environmental injustice -- climate change caused by industrial pollution -- Northern legal solutions should not exacerbate the problem. In this article, I describe how environmental goals are undermined when domestic nations of the North implement greenhouse gas reducing laws, and I offer some solutions towards ensuring that laws aimed to improve domestic environments and to mitigate the externalities of Northern consumption actually contribute to a more just world. Drawing on the concept of "pollution havens," I introduce the concept of "mandate havens," i.e. Northern laws mandating environmental protection that have detrimental impacts in the South. I focus on how mandate havens result from laws requiring biofuels production and from laws that implement REDD, and I present models for how governments, businesses, and private citizens can work across national boundaries to mitigate environmental injustice both through reducing pollution back home while alleviating poverty and protecting local ecosystems abroad.
Climate change, deforestation, and poverty present dire and intertwined threats to human and nonhuman communities. In this paper, I examine how the world’s nations, businesses, and citizens are overcoming mistrust to cooperatively address these threats through a program of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) with an associated, rigorous – and intrusive – regime of Measuring, Monitoring, Reporting, and Verifying (MMRV). I ask: How do struggles to quantify, control, and sustain the world’s forests highlight new frontiers for international law? Through these struggles, how is “sovereignty” – a cornerstone of international law – being reconstructed to adapt to 21st century perils that demand unprecedented cooperation among nations? In this paper, I explain how the emerging MMRV regime presents a model not only for facilitating REDD and other climate cooperation, but for reconstructing how we view the legal institution of “sovereignty” in an increasingly interconnected, perilous 21st century world. This process of negotiated cooperation only can help ward off multiple ecological disasters, but may present a model for how North and South may work together to address other threatening environmental problems.
Investments in reforestation and reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) have the potential to mitigate greenhouse gas accumulation; sustain ecosystem services that support human and ecological communities; and generate sustainable livelihoods for poor, forest-dependent people. But as a new form of property, forest carbon presents legal complications that no jurisdiction has completely untangled. This guide is designed to help community members, government leaders, lawyers, treaty negotiators, NGO advocates, and carbon investors do legal due diligence to understand forest carbon as property in order to support and develop sustainable forest carbon projects.