Temitope Onifade

Law, Society, and the Regulation of Low Carbon Economies

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I decided to pursue a graduate degree to nurture my interest in research, teaching and volunteer service. I have been doing research since my undergraduate days. I consulted as a student researcher for organizations such as Prima Strata and Justice Chambers at Obafemi Awolowo University. Also, I started a group tutorial under the aegis of the Law Students’ Society at the Obafemi Awolowo University, and worked as one of the tutors. Then, I was involved in volunteer service at various points, including serving as Principal Liaison Officer of the Law Students’ Society, Chair of Debate Committee, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The Advocate Journal, Chair of the Inaugural Organizing Committee of the Wole Olanipekun National Moot Competition, and Moot Coach in Justice Chambers at the Obafemi Awolowo University. I knew a graduate degree would allow me to continue with these kinds of activities. I also had other interests. For instance, I was a member of some dance groups, did music and later led the band of the National Youth Service Corps of Nigeria in Edo State, and participated in table tennis competitions at some point. However, my interest in research, teaching and service eventually won, so I went for my first graduate degree.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

Simple: I have the best fit at UBC. First, my supervisor, Dr Stepan Wood, is a leading Canadian scholar and one of the leading international scholars in my area. He is the Canada Research Chair in Law, Society and Sustainability, and leads the Transnational Business Governance Interactions Network. He is therefore the best mentor I could get. Second, UBC has remarkable strengths in environmental studies, as Canada's leading university in this area, and is also considered one of the top schools internationally. Rankings are not completely reliable, but even most of them put it in the top ten for the field of environment internationally. It is therefore the place to be for my research. Third, UBC gave me the most competitive funding offer. There is the belief that top schools do not give very good financial support. UBC is an exception, given the wide range of scholarship opportunities. With these three considerations, UBC is undoubtedly the dream place for me. There are other considerations such as the opportunity to live in Vancouver and the need to stay in Canada to satisfy permanent residence requirements, but these were not as compelling.

What is it specifically, that your program offers, that attracted you?

My program at the Peter A. Allard School of Law has strengths in the study of law and society. There are several faculty members pushing the edge of research on how law and society interact, as applicable to various fields. Also, since my research focuses on regulation, I have the opportunity to learn from leading scholars such as Dr. Stepan Wood who is my supervisor, Dr. Cristie Ford who is on my supervisory committee, and Dr. Natasha Affolder, whose work my research also interacts with. I have read about these scholars, so I respect their scholarly achievements. With this caliber of people to learn from, being in my program is a privilege.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

The beauty of the campus! I did not think UBC would be this beautiful for two major reasons. First, it is in a major city where real property is expensive, so I thought buildings would be cramped. Second, I also thought that having this much beautiful scenery would be unrealistic, given the opportunity cost. I was pleasantly shocked to find that the campus is located on a park, with beaches and other breathtaking scenery. Going to campus is always an opportunity to explore.

What aspect of your graduate program do you enjoy the most or are looking forward to with the greatest curiosity?

I am looking forward to the fieldwork and the actual writing of my thesis. Most of my previous research projects have not involved major fieldwork, so it is exciting to fill this gap with my doctoral project. I also love to craft research reports and analyses, so the writing stage will be very engaging.

What do you see as your biggest challenge(s) in your future career?

My biggest challenge will likely arise from taking on too much responsibilities. I hope to work as a law and policy professor, a law and policy analyst, and/or a lawyer. Depending on the opportunities I get, I might be combining at least two of these jobs, on a full-time versus part-time basis. It will be challenging to do so.

How do you feel your program is preparing you for those challenges?

My program has allowed me to multitask. I am already combining a number of responsibilities as a doctoral student. Apart from my primary doctoral work, I am also on the Editorial Advisory Boards of an International Bar Association committee and the University of Ibadan Journal of Public and International Law, and serve as a reviewer for some journals, including Energy Policy and Sustainable Energy Technologies and Assessments. Then, I am also working  part-time with Social Impact Firm, a corporate social responsibility law firm in Canada that represents clients across countries in North America. Further, I am involved in policy work as a member of the Board of Directors of Holistic Sustainable Development Initiative and as a founding member of a potential network of the Liu Institute for Global Issues. With this range of activities, it means I am already combining my research engagements as a doctoral student, editorial advisory board member and reviewer, with legal practice and policy work. I hope to build on this foundation to enhance my ability to manage diverse career responsibilities.

What aspects of your life or career before now have best prepared you for your UBC graduate program?

My legal practice, research and teaching experience has prepared me the most for my graduate programme. I gathered a chunk of this experience between 2010 and 2016. I worked as a lawyer for two law firms in Nigeria. I represented clients such as Biofuel Development Farmers Association, a group of small-scale farmers that supply biofuel feedstock such as Jatropha, Rapeseed and Mahua, and Green Energy Plant, a small company that processes waste into biofuel. While searching for government environmental standards and incentives applicable to these clients, I learned about environmental regulation, my broad area of interest. Also, I have been fortunate to work with senior scholars and practitioners on several environmental regulation projects.in Nigeria, Canada and the United States. My assigned parts of these projects have mostly covered carbon mitigation and risk regulation, with tasks to gather and/or analyse data, brainstorm ideas, and/or contribute to papers. Based on my experience, I have developed a research strand on low carbon regulation, and have produced relevant articles, book chapters and reports. This research strand has led to my current project. Then, I have also taught environmental law as a lecturer at Memorial University, and have been invited as an interdisciplinary scholar in energy and environmental law at the University of Calgary. With helpful feedback, my classroom discussions have shaped my thinking about low carbon regulation.

What do you like to do for fun or relaxation?

I like to dance, watch shows, hike and socialize. I am also hoping to find a good spot for table tennis.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

UBC is a competitive place, so it is likely that any graduate student is already excellent or outstanding. One implication is that students might already be used to working extremely hard all the time. It is also possible that they underrate other things in life. My advice is to have a reasonable work-life balance. Without this, it is easy to be burnt out, with the potential to lead to other problems. So, creating a balance is the way to maintain productivity. Fortunately, Vancouver is a great city to have a work-life balance.