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Daniel Feldman

Drawing on his prior positions in government service spanning multiple Administrations, former Ambassador Dan Feldman’s practice focuses on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) counseling, business and human rights (BHR), global public policy, as well as broader international regulatory compliance. He is a member of the firm’s Global Problem Solving initiative.

As Chief of Staff and Counselor to Secretary John Kerry when he was appointed the first Special Presidential Envoy for Climate (SPEC) by President Biden, Dan helped drive the U.S. government’s international climate agenda, coordinating high level interagency policy-making, engaging with corporate stakeholders, and contributing to key bilateral and multilateral climate discussions, including last year's Leaders' Summit on Climate and the landmark UN Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.

Previously, Dan served as deputy and then U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the U.S. Department of State in the Obama Administration, as Director of Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs at the National Security Council in the Clinton Administration, and as Counsel and Communications Adviser to the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He also has served as a senior foreign policy and national security advisor to a number of Democratic presidential and Congressional campaigns.

Dan has extensive experience counseling multinational corporations on mitigating risk and maximizing opportunities in the development and implementation of their ESG and sustainability strategies, with a particular background in advising on BHR matters. He was one of the first attorneys in the U.S. to develop a practice in corporate social responsibility, and has been cited by Chambers for his BHR expertise. He assists clients in strategizing about their engagements with a range of key stakeholders, including Members of Congress, executive branch officials, foreign government officials and Embassy representatives, multilateral institutions, trade and industry associations, non-governmental organizations, opinion leaders, and journalists.

The second round of France’s snap parliamentary elections delivered a surprising result on Sunday: with 182 seats, the coalition of left-wing parties—the Nouveau Front populaire (“NFP”) emerged as the unexpected victor. Centrist parties supporting President Emmanuel Macron finished second with 168 seats altogether, whereas the far-right Rassemblement National (“RN”) and its allies—which in the first round had seemed to be within striking distance of an outright victory—secured only 143 seats, thwarting its hopes of being able to form the next government. With 289 seats needed for any single party to reach a majority in the lower house and form a government, President Macron’s decision to call early legislative elections has delivered an outcome that threatens gridlock in the EU’s second-largest economy.

There seems to be limited scope out of this deadlock: either a government formed of a grand coalition spanning from the centre right to the centre left, but excluding both the extremes (the RN on the far right and La France insoumise, “LFI”, on the far left); or to the formation of a caretaker, technocratic government until a political situation is found. Either way, the negotiations to form the next government threaten to be lengthy and torturous and the French Constitution prevents new parliamentary elections being held within the next 12 months. This situation will have profound implications not only for France but also for decision-making in the EU.

Background Context

In 2017, Emmanuel Macron’s unexpected yet victorious bid in the presidential elections had reshuffled the cards of the French political landscape, with traditional governing parties marginalised by a powerful central force, which vowed to overcome old cleavages. Surfing on a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections following his own election, the President’s first mandate (2017-2022) was marked by a willingness to boost France’s economic attractiveness: a labour reform, a single 30% tax rate on capital gains, the abolition of a wealth tax, and the reduction of corporate taxes have all contributed to curbing unemployment levels.

The French President’s approach to power, sometimes seen as vertical, was perceived to have prevented flagship reforms from being passed. In late 2018, the Yellow Vest movement provoked a political crisis and a year later, President Macron withdrew a pensions reform bill due to a prolonged national strike movement. The Covid-19 outbreak heralded further complications, with France’s unmatched fiscal measures to buffer the impact of the crisis leading to deteriorated public finances: the government deficit rose to 8.9% of GDP, while public debt rose by almost 20 percentage points, to 114.6% of GDP in 2020.

President Macron’s re-election in 2022 against Marine Le Pen, albeit by a smaller margin than in 2017, confirmed his strong ability to mobilise his electoral base. Yet, he was able to muster only a limited majority in the National Assembly. This was notwithstanding the alignment of presidential and parliamentary mandates (in a 2000 revision of the Constitution) that until now had mechanically enabled the President to obtain an absolute majority in the Parliament (called the “fait majoritaire”).Continue Reading France drifts towards uncertainty after snap elections

In early March, the EU released its first-ever European Defence Industrial Strategy (EDIS), accompanied by a proposed regulation establishing the European Defence Industry Programme (EDIP). The aim is to boost defence capabilities in Europe through greater and more efficient spending. In particular, the strategy seeks to reverse recent trends, whereby 78% of defence acquisitions by EU countries since Russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine were made with non-EU producers, with U.S. firms accounting for 63%. It also addresses recent concerns by the defence industry over ESG constraints on obtaining private financing.

The ultimate benchmark for success, as recounted by one EU foreign minister, is whether these measures will help deter Russia and other adversaries. Nonetheless, it reflects greater operational focus of the EU on defence and security issues, and what in practice the European Commission and other EU institutions can do to bolster capabilities in a policy area that will remain the primary prerogative of EU Member States.

Plugging Defence Gaps

Since the end of the Cold War, European defence has suffered from perennial underinvestment and lack of policy support for the defence industry. Whereas Europe collectively spent on defence over half of the U.S. totals in the early 1990s, it now spends about one-third compared to the United States—arguably at a time of much greater security threats to Europe compared to America. There are simply not enough soldiers, tanks, planes, ships, missiles, guns, and ammunition in Europe, nor domestic facilities to produce the necessary weapons systems and materiel. Moreover, EU countries have procured defence products at a national level, exacerbating fragmentation within the European market. This fragmentation has led to the creation of national industrial silos and numerous defence systems that often lack interoperability.Continue Reading Mobilizing Greater Defence Capabilities in Europe: the EU’s Defence Industrial Strategy

This year’s Munich Security Conference reemphasized the need for Europe to invest in greater defense capabilities and foster a regulatory environment that is conducive to building a defense and technological industrial base. In Munich, President Ursula von der Leyen committed to appointing a European Commissioner for Defence, if she is reselected later this year by the European Council and European Parliament. And the EU is also due to publish shortly a new defense industrial strategy, mirroring in part, the first-ever U.S. National Defense Industrial Strategy (NDIS) released earlier this year by the Department of Defense.

The NDIS, in turn, recognizes the need for a strong defense industry in both the U.S. and the EU, as well as other allies and partners across the globe, in order to strengthen supply chain resilience and ensure the production and delivery of critical defense supplies. And global leaders generally see the imperative of working together over the long-term to advance integrated deterrence policies and to strengthen and modernize defense industrial base ecosystems. We will continue tracking these geopolitical trends, which are likely to persist regardless of electoral outcomes in Europe or the United States.

These developments across both sides of the Atlantic follow on a number of significant new funding streams in Europe over the past couple of years, for instance:

  • The 2021 revision of the European Defense Fund Regulation allocated €8 billion for common research and development projects, meant to be spent during the 2021-2027 multi-annual financial framework (MFF).
  • As a direct response to Ukraine’s request for assistance with the supply of 155 mm-caliber artillery rounds, the EU adopted the 2023 Act in Support of Ammunition Production (ASAP), with a €500 million fund to scale up production of ammunition and missiles.
  • Most recently, the EU adopted the 2023 European Defense Industry Reinforcement through Common Procurement Act (EDIRPA), introduced a joint procurement fund of €300 million to facilitate Member States’ collective acquisition of defense products.
  • The European Peace Facility (EPF), an off-budget instrument, with an overall financial ceiling exceeding €12 billion, is primarily destined toward procurement of military material and large-scale financing of weapon supplies to allied third countries (including €6.1 billion for Ukraine).

Continue Reading Insights from the Munich Security Conference: Towards an Expanding U.S.-EU Defense Taxonomy?

In the early hours of December 14, 2023, the Council of the EU (“Council”) and the European Parliament (“Parliament”) reached a provisional political agreement on the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (“CSDDD”). Described as a “historic breakthrough” by Lara Wolters, who has led this file for the Parliament, the CSDDD will require many companies in the EU and beyond to conduct environmental and human rights due diligence on their global operations and value chain, and oblige them to adopt a transition plan for climate change mitigation.

Given the CSDDD’s relevance for companies’ ongoing compliance planning on environmental and human rights matters, this blog aims to advise clients on the basic elements of the CSDDD agreement based on press releases from the CouncilParliament, and the European Commission (“Commission”), even if much uncertainty remains. Although a political agreement has been reached, the text of the agreement is not publicly available and a number of details of the legal text will need to be finalized in follow-up technical meetings. Covington will publish a more detailed alert on “how to prepare” for the CSDDD once the full text is available (likely in early 2024).

In Short

After intense negotiations since the Commission published its proposal in February 2022, the Directive is set to lay down significant due diligence obligations for large companies regarding actual and potential adverse impacts on human rights and the environment, with respect to their own operations, those of their subsidiaries, and those carried out by their business partners.Continue Reading Provisional Agreement on the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD): Key Elements of the Deal

What You Need to Know.

  • After two days of intense negotiations, world leaders adopted a draft decision that sets out international climate priorities in response to the findings of the first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement.  The decision covers several thematic areas, including mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation and resilience in the face of climate change, financing and means of implementation and support for climate projects, and loss and damage funding for climate-vulnerable nations.  The text of the draft decision can be found on the UNFCCC’s website here.
  • The most highly scrutinized and heavily debated aspect of the agreement was the path forward on the use of fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions from which, the decision notes, have “unequivocally caused global warming of about 1.1 °C.”  Recognizing the need for deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5 °C pathways, the decision calls on Parties to contribute to the following efforts related to the energy transition and fossil fuel use:
    • Tripling renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030;
    • Accelerating efforts towards the phase-down of unabated coal power;
    • Accelerating efforts globally towards net zero emission energy systems, utilizing zero- and low-carbon fuels well before or by around mid-century;
    • Transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade, so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science;”
    • Accelerating zero- and low-emission technologies, including, inter alia, renewables, nuclear, abatement and removal technologies such as carbon capture and utilization and storage, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors, and low-carbon hydrogen production;
    • Accelerating and substantially reducing non-carbon-dioxide emissions globally, including in particular methane emissions by 2030;
    • Accelerating the reduction of emissions from road transport on a range of pathways, including through development of infrastructure and rapid deployment of zero and low-emission vehicles; and
    • Phasing out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that do not address energy poverty or just transitions, as soon as possible;
  • While coal has been mentioned in previous COP decisions, the language on “transitioning away from fossil fuels” represents the first time that countries have agreed to language that explicitly curtails all fossil fuels in the nearly three-decades-long history of the UN climate summit.  Though hailed by COP28 President Al Jaber and other world leaders as a “historic package to accelerate climate action,” the decision, and how it was adopted, was not without its critics.
    • UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell pushed the world to strive for more action.  “COP 28 also needed to signal a hard stop to humanity’s core climate problem—fossil fuels and their planet-burning pollution.  Whilst we didn’t turn the page on the fossil fuel era in Dubai, this outcome is the beginning of the end.”
    • Anne Rasmussen, lead delegate for Samoa, complained that delegates of the small island nation nations weren’t even in the room when President Al Jaber announced the deal was done.  Garnering the longest applause of the session, Rasmussen declared that “the course correction that is needed has not been secured” and that the deal could “potentially take us backward rather than forward.”

Continue Reading COP28 Final Negotiations Recap: A Global Agreement to Transition Away from Fossil Fuels

Last week, Ethiopia hosted the 2nd regional African Forum on Business and Human Rights. This year’s Forum focused on local perspectives and solutions to implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), including in the context of operationalising the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Participants included a range of stakeholders including business enterprises and associations, governments, civil society, Indigenous Peoples groups, labour organisations, international and regional organizations and national human rights institutions. Dialogue touched on critical issues including the intersection between environmental and social impacts and the importance of developing and implementing business and human rights (BHR) frameworks that are appropriate for Africa.

In this post, we distil several considerations for businesses operating in Africa:

  1. Stakeholders are committed to establishing BHR frameworks tailored to Africa

An underlying theme of the Forum — “For Africa, From Africa” — was the implementation of the UNGPs through African perspectives. Participants discussed the extra-territorial reach of the EU’s proposed Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), through which the EU seeks to play a critical role in global standard setting on human rights due diligence. There was a clear recognition that the CSDDD and a plethora of other EU ESG laws are likely to apply directly or indirectly to businesses and significantly impact many businesses in the region. The EU is currently piloting projects in several African states to develop frameworks to assist states and businesses in preparing for CSDDD implementation and mitigate the risk of the law negatively impacting value chains. Despite this, there was some criticism regarding a perceived limited engagement with stakeholders in the Global South in the CSDDD drafting process and the potential risks and implications that could flow from that, including for example, a concern that costs of meeting due diligence standards could ultimately be pushed down to small-holding farmers and SMEs within the value chain.Continue Reading 2023 African Forum on Business and Human Rights: What do companies need to know?

Rebuilding Ukraine, with an estimated cost of around $1 trillion, will be an unprecedented undertaking given the massive scale and uncertain environment. Although the reconstruction details are still being determined, the main international donors are likely to be the EU and its Member States, international financial institutions, and the United States. And while large-scale efforts are unlikely to start across all of Ukraine until after a peace agreement is reached, limited recovery projects have already been launched and may be expanded.

Marshall Plan Times Ten

Russia’s war of aggression has generated enormous economic damage in Ukraine, not to mention over 140,000 civilian and military casualties. According to the latest World Bank estimates, the overall damage in Ukraine resulting from the war is already around $425 billion. This consisted of $135 billion in direct damage and $290 billion in disruptions to economic flows and production.

Longer-term, Ukraine foresees around $1 trillion necessary for post-war reconstruction over a ten-year period. Depending on the depth and destruction of the war, however, even this colossal estimate may increase over time. By comparison, the oft-invoked example of the Marshall Plan—America’s historic reconstruction of Western Europe after World War II—was around $100 billion in current dollars spread over four years and across seventeen European countries. Ukraine may require that times ten over ten years and could become the world’s largest reconstruction effort since 1945.

To help meet this need, the international community has begun organizing donors’ conferences of governments and companies interested in supporting and rebuilding Ukraine’s economy. In July 2022, the Ukraine Recovery Conference was held in Lugano, Switzerland, with the participation of five heads of state and government and 58 international delegations (representatives of governments and international organizations). In October 2022, Germany and the European Commission co-hosted in Berlin a conference of experts to develop ideas for Ukraine’s reconstruction.

On June 21-22, 2023, the Ukraine Recovery Conference convened in London with officials from 61 countries, leaders of 33 international organizations, and numerous companies. At the conference, the European Commission unveiled a €50 billion proposal for Ukraine (in grants and loans over three years) as part of its EU budget review, which the Council and Parliament will now need to discuss and decide upon. The EU along with several international financial institutions signed agreements worth over €800 million to mobilize private investment for Ukraine. And over 500 firms signed the Ukraine Business Compact committing to supporting Ukraine’s reconstruction. The next conference will convene again in Berlin in 2024.Continue Reading Ukraine’s Reconstruction

UN General Assembly Adopts Resolution Requesting Advisory Opinion on States’ Obligations Concerning Climate Change

On March 29, 2023, the UN General Assembly (“UNGA”) adopted by consensus a resolution (A/77/L.58) requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (“ICJ” or “Court”) on the obligations of states in respect of climate change. The resolution results from coordinated efforts by the Republic of Vanuatu, along with a “Core Group” of states, including Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Costa Rica, the Federated States of Micronesia, Morocco, Mozambique, New Zealand, Portugal, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Uganda, and Viet Nam. The efforts of the Core Group drew on grassroots and civil society support, and the resolution was ultimately co-sponsored by more than 130 UN member states (although not the United States, Brazil, India, China, or Russia).

This marks the latest effort to ask international courts and tribunals to clarify the legal obligations of states in relation to climate change. In the last few months, similar requests for advisory opinions have been submitted to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (“ITLOS”) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (“IACHR”).

Questions in the UNGA Resolution

The UNGA resolution observes that “as temperatures rise, impacts from climate and weather extremes […] will pose an ever-greater social, cultural, economic and environmental threat.” It asks the ICJ to issue its opinion on the following questions:

a) What are the obligations of States under international law to ensure the protection of the climate system and other parts of the environment from anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases for States and for present and future generations;Continue Reading The World Court Set to Become the Latest Venue for Climate Change Jurisprudence

The focus of this year’s UN Forum on Business and Human Rights was “putting rights holders at the centre” of business’ human rights due diligence efforts. In this post, ahead of Human Rights Day, we distill the important takeaways for business, drawing on Forum discussions among a range of stakeholders, including corporate representatives, governments, NGOs and rights-holders themselves.

1.  The business and human rights legal landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace and this trajectory will continue.

Many governments worldwide are considering and implementing new human rights due diligence legislative initiatives. Aside from laws already passed and the EU sustainability due diligence initiative (see our earlier alert), there are similar proposals on the table in Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Brazil, and other countries. Japan recently published non-binding guidance for business, intended to drive good practice.  Other countries are developing “National Action Plans” (“NAPs) under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (“UNGPs”), which can be a pre-curser to binding regulations. While legislative initiatives to date have largely been found in the Global North, we are also seeing movement in other regions: The African Union recently convened the first African Forum on Business and Human Rights.

While at varying stages of development and implementation, the fundamental tenets of these due diligence laws generally are similar. Companies are required to implement due diligence programs to identify and mitigate adverse human rights (and often environmental) impacts in their own operations and global supply or value chains.Continue Reading The 11th UN Forum on Business and Human Rights: Key Takeaways for Business

The United Nations annual climate change conference—officially known as the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (“UNFCCC”), or COP27 for short—held in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, finally concluded early Sunday morning, more than 24 hours late.

COP27 was held amidst the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine and the consequent economic turmoil, including Europe’s scramble to secure non-Russian gas. It was previewed by a UNFCCC report which concluded that on its current trajectory the world faced warming of between 2.5 and 2.9 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, and accompanied by a new report from the International Energy Agency’s 2022 World Energy Outlook which concluded that the world needed to spend at least $4 trillion annually to tackle climate change from now until 2030.

Against this challenging backdrop, COP27 was never going to be straightforward. But those difficulties were compounded by divisions between developing and developed world over the priorities that should form the focus for COP27. Those divisions manifested themselves most clearly in tensions before, during, and at the conclusion of the Conference over the issue of “loss and damage.” This acrimony overshadowed almost all other aspects of the COP, which will nonetheless be viewed as historic for being the first COP to not only place the loss and damage issue on the official agenda, but for its creation of a separate fund to compensate countries most impacted by climate change. But loss and damage aside, the broader picture that emerged from COP27 was one of lost opportunities to adopt more ambitious and accelerated climate mitigation commitments in response to the dire scientific warnings about the impact of rapid global warming on the planet. In particular, efforts calling for a phase down of all fossil fuels were ultimately unsuccessful in the Summit’s final agreement and highlighted the mismatch between the pace of global emissions reduction commitments and that which is needed to avoid the most disruptive climate impacts.Continue Reading COP27: A Flawed though still Consequential Climate Summit