The Faces of CELA: Diane Hwang

What is your role and how long have you been involved with CELA?

I am a student volunteer with CELA through Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC). I am entering my 2nd year of law school at the University of Ottawa. I began volunteering with CELA in May and will be working on projects regarding nuclear waste. Currently, I am looking at the environmental assessment of the Near Surface Disposal Facility at Ottawa’s Chalk River.

What inspired you to get involved in environmental law and public policy?

After taking an environmental law course in my undergraduate studies, I realized Law is a way to help the environment and people affected by environmental issues. More recently, I was inspired by a friend who is incredibly informed and passionate about the environment and the lifestyle changes she has made in her daily life to reflect this has been its own learning experience. Being around people who are so knowledgeable and passionate about environmental issues definitely inspires me to get involved in environmental law and public policy.

What’s the most rewarding part of working/volunteering with CELA?

Those at CELA are very knowledgeable about the policies surrounding environmental issues so that they can see where the gaps are towards meaningful change. Learning that there is no radioactive waste policy in Canada has helped my work be more productive and informed when I can see how the pieces fit into the bigger picture. CELA has also reminded me that it is not only about protecting the environment, but also about communities, especially those that are disproportionately affected. Though I have not been with CELA for very long, learning about the state of environmental policies in Canada and seeing the changes CELA drives is very rewarding.

What do you think is Canada’s biggest environmental challenge today?

Dependence on oil. The oil and gas sector is the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada. This dependence impacts our air pollution which impacts everything else, such as wildlife, water, and natural resources, and contributes to climate change.

How do you think we can best approach this challenge?

Canada’s dependence on oil can be reduced by investments in clean technology. Clean technology already exists but our government is afraid to invest in it due to the higher upfront cost. However, like all investments the higher upfront cost will pay for itself in the future. Over the years clean technology will become cheaper and more readily available.

If you were the Leader of the World, what environmental law or policy would you implement?

As the oil and gas industry is a huge carbon emitter worldwide, I would implement a strict regulation or pricing of carbon emissions. Tackling the climate crisis requires the efforts of everyone across the globe. This policy will actively work to reduce carbon emissions and encourage investment in clean technology.

When you’re not working on environmental issues, what do you like to do?

I enjoy spending time with family and friends, reading, going on walks, and watching nature documentaries about oceans and animals.