10th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium

10th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium
More than 250 environmental experts from 35 countries gather at the University of Maryland for the 10th Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law in July 2012

March 2013 Environmental Field Trip to Israel

March 2013 Environmental Field Trip to Israel
Maryland students vist Israel's first solar power plant in the Negev desert as part of a spring break field trip to study environmental issues in the Middle East

Workshop with All China Environment Federation

Workshop with All China Environment Federation
Participants in March 12 Workshop with All China Environment Federation in Beijing

Winners of Jordanian National Moot Court Competition

Winners of Jordanian National Moot Court Competition
Jordanian Justice Minister Aymen Odah presents trophy to Noura Saleh & Niveen Abdel Rahman from Al Al Bait University along with US AID Mission Director Jay Knott & ABA's Maha Shomali

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Asian Environmental Compliance & Enforcement Network Conference

I am in Beijing right now where I participated in the annual conference of the Asian Environmental Compliance & Enforcement Network (AECEN), a regional association founded in 2005 as part of the global International Network for Environmental Compliance & Enforcement (INECE). The three-day conference was attended by approximately 150 participants from 12 Asian nations and the U.S. It opened on December 13 with remarks from Vice Minister Zhang Lijun of China’s State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA). He claimed that during the first three quarters of 2007 China turned the corner on controlling pollution by experience, for the first time, small actual declines in total emissions of SO2 and water pollutants. This claim was greeted with skepticism by most people with whom I spoke. The Vice Minister also stated that approximately 20,000 environmental investigations and enforcement actions are now undertaken each year in China.

Granta Nakayama, EPA Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, also spoke at the opening, giving an excellent message about the importance of a strong enforcement program. Dr. Supat Wangwongwatana, Thailand’s chief air pollution official and the chair of AECEN’s executive committee, declared that “Grow now, clean up later” has become a discredited way of thinking in Asia. He has considerable credibility because his agency has done an excellent job of reducing air pollution in Bangkok. Wang Canfa, director of the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV) in Beijing, then gave the keynote address, describing in great detail the work his NGO has been doing to redress pollution problems in China. CLAPV’s environmental complaint hotline has received 10,525 calls and CLAPV has filed 106 lawsuits. In the last six years CLAPV has conducted training sessions in environmental law for 292 lawyers, 220 judges, and 53 environmental officials. Professor Wang expressed appreciation for the support for NGOs that SEPA has demonstrated. He stated that no other Chinese agency than SEPA has done more to promote the work of NGOs, but he stressed the need for legislation to ensure rights of public participation in the regulatory process.

On December 14 the conference featured presentations on strengthening judicial capacity in the Phillippines, developing a wastewater discharge free program in Sri Lanka, and training environmental inspectors in Vietnam. Li Xingyuan of SEPA review progress in environmental enforcement in China. He stated that nearly $2 billion (14.3 billion yuan) in discharge fees were collected in 2006 from 1 million enterprises. In the four years that SEPA has operated a hotline, it has received 1.58 million complaints from the public. SEPA is establishing six regional offices, though it is not clear to me what authority they will have over the local environmental protection boards (EPBs), who are largely beholden to the mayors of the cities in which they operate.

I gave a presentation on “The Role of the Media in Environmental Compliance and Enforcement.” I used as an example an “air pollution blacklist” of 4,000 firms that had just been issued by the Institute of Environmental and Public Affairs, a Chinese NGO, which excited a representative of the group who was in the audience. I discussed UNEP’s enforcement guideline 41(m) on use of the media to aid enforcement and the relevance of the Aarhus convention, while also highlighting the increasing use of citizen videos. I explained how Maryland’s environmental law students learn to make videos and how I hope to transplant that project to my Chinese students this spring when I teach with Wang Canfa at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing.

On December 15 the conference held a series of workshops on the development of public disclosure programs, promoting compliance assistance, and public involvement in environmental dispute resolution in China. Tseming Yang of Vermont Law School chaired an afternoon session on the role of civil society in environmental compliance and enforcement. This session featured presentations on public interest litigation in India, NGO participation in Chinese enforcement, and citizen suits in the Philippines.

The U.S. EPA had a sizable delegation, including the Administrator, in Beijing this week as EPA and SEPA signed a joint cooperation agreement. Given that the Bali conference also was occurring this week, the Administrator’s presence here may reflect how important the U.S. views China’s domestic environmental policies to be. U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson also was here this week for the U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue’s (SED) latest meeting, which focused largely on food and product safety issues rather than environmental concerns. It resulted in the signing of a cooperation agreement focusing on improving the safety of imports and exports between the two countries.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Indian Society of International Law Conference

Greetings from smoggy New Delhi, where the local government has just reported that air pollution-caused respiratory diseases were the principal cause of premature deaths in the city in 2006, killing more than 9,000 people, an increase of more than 50 percent over 2005 (though that strikes me as perhaps a small figure for a city this large).

On December 8-9 the Indian Society of International Law (ISIL) held its Fifth Conference on International Environmental Law in New Delhi. The conference was held at the ISIL offices, which are directly across the street from the Supreme Court of India. The conference attracted nearly 300 participants from 20 countries. Tom Frank of NYU spoke at the opening ceremonies. I presented a paper on “The Evolution of Global Environmental Law” which argued that we should broaden our conception of international environmental law to embrace “global environmental law,” as emphasized by this website. The presentation seemed to be particularly well received because many of the participants have been struggling with questions raised by the impact of globalization on the development of international law. Professor Ved Nanda of the University of Denver School of Law gave an excellent presentation on principles of international environmental law.

Particularly impressive was that ISIL managed to publish 70 papers prepared for the conference in a two-volume, 1100-page book. The papers covered a wide variety of subjects including global environmental governance, regulatory initiatives to protect various aspects of the environment in different countries, environmental enforcement, the law of the sea, and the teaching of international law. Marlene Oliver, a commissioner from the Environment Court of New Zealand, reported on the work of her court, which sparked some discussion of whether India and other countries should adopt specialized courts to handle environmental issues.

After my talk I spoke with Professor L. Pushpa Kumar from the University of Delhi, who expressed interest in starting an environmental law clinic. I also spoke with K. Mahesh of the Delhi Pollution Control Committee who explained that corruption is greatly impairing the enforcement of pollution control laws in India and that the stricter the regulations become, the greater is the potential for corruption. Students from some Indian law schools asked me how they could become more involved in policy issues. I suggested that they form environmental law societies, as are common at U.S. law schools but which apparently are not common in India.

Next week Tseming and I will be in Beijing to make presentations to the Regional Forum of the Asian Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Network on “Public Participation in Environmental Compliance and Enforcement in Asia.” Prior to arriving in New Delhi, I stopped in Cambodia for three days to visit the Angkor Wat area and the genocide museum and killing fields near Phnom Penh. My photos of the trip are now posted online at http://gallery.mac.com/rperci/100046. I flew to and from Cambodia via Singapore, where I was able to observe first hand the Singapore government’s Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) system, the world’s first congestion charge system launched in 1998. All vehicles in Singapore, including motorbikes, have an electronic device that enables them to incur charges automatically when they are present on certain stretches of road at certain times of day. London modeled its more recently-launched congestion charge system on the Singapore program.

National People's Congress Forum & Launch of EPA China Website

On December 1 & 2 China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) held its second International Forum on Environmental Legislation and Sustainable Development (IFELSD) in Beijing. I participated in their first forum which was held in 2005 at the Friendship Hotel. This year the event was held at the very elegant NPC Conference Center, which is hidden away in a residential district four blocks northwest of Tianamen Square. At the opening ceremonies it was announced that China’s energy use per unit of gross domestic product (GDP) had dropped by 3 percent in the first 9 months of 2007. However, as the China Daily noted in an editorial, this is still not good enough to put China on track to meets its goal of reducing energy consumption per unit of GDP by 20 percent between 2006 and 2010. Dan Dudek of Environmental Defense, one of the cosponsors of the conference, noted that two days earlier Premier Wen Jiabao had pledged during a meeting with the China Council on Environmental Cooperation and Development that China would play a “constructive” role in the Bali Conference of the Parties to the climate change convention that is being held from Dec. 3-14 (Environmental Defense is sending 16 of its staff to this conference).

The IFELSD featured many interesting presentations on a wide range of environmental topics. There was considerable discussion of China’s revisions of its water pollution control law and efforts to improve waste management in China, including control of electronic waste. Magnus Gislev from the European Commission’s Beijing delegation gave an excellent summary of EU water pollution control law. I presented a paper on “The Role of China in the Development of Global Environmental Law.” Charles DiLeva from the World Bank, another co-sponsor of the conference, made a presentation on public participation in environmental policy. Dan Guttman, who teaches at Peking University, presented a paper comparing environmental governance in the U.S. and China and emphasizing the under-appreciated importance of “The Plan” in the Chinese system. (I spoke to one of Dan’s classes at Peking University on the evening of Dec. 2).

One of the most interesting discussions at the IFELSD focused on the difficulties China is having enforcing its environmental laws. Wen Yingman and Yang Zijang from the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) gave particularly strong presentations concluding that penalties for environmental violations in China are still so low that it is far more economic for sources simply to pay the small civil penalties rather than comply with the law. Fines for water pollution violations generally are capped at 100,000 RMB ($13,500). Environmental Defense reported that the city of Chongqing is trying to get around this ceiling by adopting legislation providing for daily fines. The legislation took effect on September 1, 2007 and it has had some immediate impact, though it is being challenged in court. ED (which will soon return to its old name of EDF) has been focusing its efforts in China on trying to persuade the Chinese government to adopt EPA’s policy of ensuring that fines at least recoup the economic benefit of non-compliance. The draft revisions to the water law apparently do not include this, but the NPC reports that “it is possible” that such a policy will be adopted.

On November 28, EPA launched a website on Chinese environmental law, which is available at: http://www.epa.gov/ogc/china/initiative_home.htm. Maryland’s Environmental Law Program is one of the co-sponsors of this website, which is designed to serve as a central source of information on developments in environmental law in China. Steve Wolfson of EPA’s International Division has played a major role in putting this website together.

Prior to the IFELSD, I visited Qingdao University in the coastal city of Qingdao, the home of Tsingtao beer and the host city for the upcoming Olympic sailing competition. On the afternoon of November 29th I gave a lecture to 100 students and faculty at the Qingdao University School of Law on “The Globalization of Environmental Law.” In the evening I gave a lecture at Qingdao’s Graduate School on “How Safe Is ‘Safe’”?