Prof. Klass Talks Energy Policy In Sweden

June 27, 2019

As a professor, author, and faculty chair of the environmental and energy law concentration at Minnesota Law, Alexandra Klass knows a thing or two about the topic. Then an opportunity to teach at Uppsala University in Sweden this April and May opened a door for her to learn even more about global environmental and energy policy and law while sharing her knowledge with others.

For more than 35 years, faculty and students from the Law School and Uppsala have engaged in an exchange program. Minnesota Law professors typically teach an introduction to American law course to a mix of students from Sweden and other countries, while Swedish professors teach a class in European Union law to Minnesota students. (Professor Eric Bylander from Uppsala taught a course at the Law School last spring.)

It’s a fruitful exchange that builds relationships between the law faculties while broadening their views about international law and international legal issues.

A Distinguished McKnight University Professor, Klass gave lectures at universities across Scandinavia while based in Uppsala. Her presentations covered the United States’ transition to renewable energy and energy policy shifts under President Donald Trump, controversies over gas and oil pipelines, and developments in technology and law regarding renewable energy and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

The experience was educational in both directions. “I have a much better sense now of how energy transition issues are taking place in Europe,” Klass says. “It’s interesting to see how that is working in different European countries with renewable electricity and renewable fuel.” 

It was a pertinent time to teach about constitutional law in the United States, when conflicts between the executive branch and Congress were frequently on display, Klass says. Her students were from Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom, Singapore, China, and Australia, and the class engaged in many discussions comparing the American legal system to their home countries’ systems.

For her part, Klass engaged with other environmental and energy law faculty about their research and learned more about relationships between Sweden, other European Union countries, and the EU. “I’ll admit that it makes me think differently about our federalist system of government,” she adds. 

Over the years, steady exchanges have built a wealth of goodwill between Uppsala and Minnesota faculty, who get to know each other during stints back and forth. “You actually get a much better feel for another country’s lawyers and legal system by physically being here and being immersed in it,” Klass says. “It broadens personal and academic opportunities and knowledge of international law in a variety of areas.”

Student Perspective

Students also benefit. N. Georgette Marling, a 2019 graduate, participated in several international experiences, including spending a semester at Uppsala learning about EU commercial litigation. While at the Law School, she also was a member of a moot court team that competed—and won—an international competition in Mumbai, India, did research in Colombia through the Human Rights Center, and lobbied diplomats in Switzerland on children’s rights through the Human Rights Litigation and International Advocacy Clinic.

Spending time abroad exposed Marling to how legal systems work in different countries. She observed that other lawyers are less adversarial and more focused on developing inventive approaches to interpreting laws.

“When I’m reading a legal issue and looking for case law or jurisprudence to support my argument, I’m able to come up with creative arguments from the experience of seeing how law works in other countries and how other lawyers would approach the subject,” Marling says. 

Marling ultimately would like to combine her interests in human rights work and the environment. She hopes to help refugees and people seeking asylum, especially those who are affected by climate change and environmental issues. 

—By Suzy Frisch, a Twin Cities-based freelance writer

Professor Klass at Uppsala University
Professor Klass at Uppsala University

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