Gustavo Rochette (Energy and Natural Resources Law LLM, 2019) shares his experience of teaching and organising a lecture, given by the Rt Hon Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change from 2010 to 2012 and a member of the UK’s National Security Council.
Gustavo, has just come to the end of his first year as a Teaching Assistant on the Renewable Energy Law module taught by Professor Malik Dahlan, Chair of International Law and Public Policy. He shares with us his experience of teaching and of organising the last lecture of the spring term, given by the Rt Hon Chris Huhne, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change from 2010 to 2012 and a member of the UK’s National Security Council.
I was somewhat fortunate to have experienced teaching in the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown! It was, to say the least, a learning experience.
This might seem contrary to the obvious challenge of having to manage teaching classes online. The efforts made by the CCLS academic and administrative staff were significant. What made Renewable Energy Law popular module is Professor Dahlan’s use of the “Socratic method” for his pedagogy and employing the interactive “panel” system. The challenge was how to figure out how to do this when it was decided to use online platforms for our classes. This meant that, apart from having to ensure that students were able to access the “classroom”, we also had to make new arrangements for the guest lecturers who had already been invited to join us. Fortunately, all of them were available and interested in carrying on in the new format.
As for the students, they remained engaged and keen to make the most of their LLM experience while being mindful and amenable to the circumstances. Although both teaching staff and students recognised that class interactivity was not the easiest, the use of online platforms allowed students to ask professors direct questions, as well as discuss questions with classmates.
It goes without saying that side chitchatting was not possible, which sometimes allows a 3-hour classes to flow more smoothly. The share screen feature of online platforms also allowed the teaching staff and guest lecturers to explain the proposed content with the help of PowerPoint or video presentations. When the topic was sufficiently interesting – as is usually the case at CCLS - the debate was very lively. These observations were also shared by guest lecturers, who were able to join our module virtually. We were lucky enough to have Partners and Senior Associates from leading City law firms, as well as one CEO of a disruptive energy company. Their presence and the close (online) contact that classes allowed should help student to build confidence and leadership skills in times of crisis.
At our last class, we were pleased to welcome the Rt Hon Chris Huhne as guest speaker. He is a former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate and a member of the UK’s National Security Council. His lecture was opened to the entire CCLS academic community, including other Energy & Natural Resources Law LLM students, as well as those enrolled in the Environmental Law LLM and the Public International Law LLM. Chris Huhne did a brilliant presentation on “Crises and consequences: COVID-19 and climate change”.
In his presentation he started with a reference to the enormous shift to renewables happening in the last 10-15 years, which can be shown by renewables generating more electricity in the UK than fossil fuels for the first time in the third quarter of last year, and indeed since the industrial revolution. The dynamic that led to this event generated a decline in power generation emissions during the last 10 years. He explained that this shift was due to the continued dramatic decline in the costs of renewables and battery storage (see image).
However, he noted that emissions from industry, transport and agriculture are proving more difficult to curb than GHG emissions in order to comply with the Paris Agreement. COVID-19 should provide a significant reduction on the world’s GHG emissions this year. He gave some insights about the role that the private sector might need to play in the reduction of the world’s GHG emissions, namely improvements in energy efficiency and intermittency, as well as what to expect of the next UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (“COP”).