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

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fulbright Orientation

This week I attended a three-day orientation program for new Fulbright scholars in China, sponsored by the State Department’s Fulbright Program. Since there is no Fulbright Commission in China, the orientation was run by the U.S. Embassy. The program, which was held at the Swissotel in Beijing, brought together past and present Fulbright scholars who provided wide-ranging advice on living and teaching in China. It included briefings from political and medical officers from the embassy, a reception at the home of Daniel Piccuta, deputy chief of the U.S. Mission, lunch with Chinese Fulbright alumni, a visit to a Confucian temple, and dinner and dancing at the Makayame Tibetan Restaurant. It was a great opportunity to get to know the other Fulbrighters in China, many of whom I had met at the Washington, D.C. orientation last June. It also was fun to talk international politics with embassy personnel. Photos from the orientation can be viewed online at: http://gallery.mac.com/rperci/100084 A short video clip of dancing at the Tibetan restaurant is online at: http://gallery.mac.com/rperci/100094.

Beijing is considered a “hardship” post by the State Department in part because of the severity of the air pollution. Fortunately both traffic and pollution in Beijing have been lighter than normal in the past week. Embassy staff attributed this in part to the fact that many people were still taking Spring Festival vacations that had been delayed by the severe weather that hit China weeks ago. One diplomat noted that the fact that traffic and pollution levels could be noticeably affected by vacations illustrated how much motor vehicle ownership had penetrated into the Chinese middle class.

While at the Swissotel I ran into three former co-workers from my days at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) during the 1980s - Linda Greer and Susan Egan-Keane, who are now scientists at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and David Lennett, a former EDF lawyer who is now a consultant for NRDC. They were meeting with staff from the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV), the Chinese public interest environmental group run by Wang Canfa, a professor at the China University of Political Science and Law where I am teaching this semester. I attended part of their meeting to launch the joint China-NRDC Public Health and Law Project on Friday. The project initially will focus on using NRDC’s legal and scientific expertise to assist CLAPV in seeking redress for villagers harmed by pollution from mining waste.

In talking to embassy staff, I learned that Major League Baseball will soon be making its debut in China. On March 15-16, the Los Angeles Dodgers will play two spring training exhibition games in Beijing against the San Diego Padres at Wukesong Stadium, where the Olympic baseball competition will be held. One of the owners of the Dodgers, Jamie McCourt, who is an alum of the University of Maryland School of Law, will be accompanying the team. My dean is trying to arrange tickets through her because the dean and a group of other Maryland faculty and students will be visiting me in China then during Maryland’s spring break.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Arrival in China

I arrived in China on Friday to start my semester teaching as a J. William Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer at the China University of Political Science and Law. Chinese universities start their spring semester after the Spring Festival and celebration of Chinese New Year, which is why classes don’t start until February 25. The spring semester runs until early July.

The nonstop flight from Washington Dulles to Beijing flies north-northeast, passing over western Greenland and then just east of the North Pole. Greenland was a frequent topic in my household growing up, long before thoughts of it centered on the possibility that global warming may melt its icecap, because my father had been stationed in Greenland during World War II. He described it as a cold and boring experience. The only “combat” he saw was a mission to destroy a German weather station on the east side of the island, which turned out to be unoccupied. I inherited the incredible Army parka my father used in Greenland, which I wore frequently during the Minnesota winters while in college. It saved me from serious injury when I was in a van that rolled over, killing the driver, who was my best friend and debate partner, on the way to a debate tournament.

The flight to Beijing, which takes more than 13 hours from Washington, passed over the North Pole in darkness. Nine hours after takeoff the sun rose as the flight entered Russian airspace over northern Siberia. While this was my ninth flight to China in the last three years, it was the first time the flight flew over Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world by volume. The lake is located just north of the Mongolian border and east of Irkutsk (a place familiar to players of the game “Risk”). The lake has been the subject of environmental controversy concerning the siting of a paper mill along its shores. Our flight flew just east of Irkutsk, providing an excellent view of the ice and snow-covered lake and what most likely was the Russian town of Babushkin on the southeastern shore.

Just minutes before the flight landed in Beijing, it passed over a portion of the Great Wall of China just north of Beijing. A common myth is that the Great Wall is the only man-made structure visible from outer space. In fact it is one of many manmade objects that can be seen from space and it is far from being the most visible one (see http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/visible_from_space_031006.html).

On my flight was Jun Bi, deputy dean of the School of Environment at Nanjing University. I first met him in March 2005 when I gave a guest lecture in Nanjing. In July 2005 I had the privilege of introducing his family to American baseball by taking them to a Washington Nationals game at RFK Stadium. Prior to boarding the plane, Jun Bi wisely stopped at Vino Volo near the departure gate at Dulles to purchase wine to bring to China where wines are much more expensive than in the U.S. Also on the flight I met Susan Beth Farmer, a law professor from Penn State-Dickinson School of Law, who will be teaching this spring as a Fulbright scholar at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing sent two representatives to meet us at the airport. They were nice enough to drive Beth to the hotel where the Fulbright orientation will be held and me to my apartment in downtown Beijing. My apartment is in The Towers above Oriental Plaza, three blocks east of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City in the heart of downtown. It is above the best shopping mall in the city and the Wangfujin subway stop, and an easy walk to the Gui Jie “snack street”.

I love my new apartment and I am thrilled to be living in China.

Monday, February 11, 2008

China Move, Casebook Update & Chile Conference

This is the last time for several months that I will be making a post from the United States. I am moving to China on Thursday to begin my semester teaching as a Fulbright scholar at the China University of Political Science and Law. I expect that many of my future postings will deal with my experiences in China, like the blog Tseming Yang maintained when teaching as a Fulbright scholar at Tsinghua Unversity during the fall semester 2005.

Tseming and I met briefly in Baltimore on Friday to discuss the progress of our Global Environmental Law casebook project. We had a lengthy conference call with the editor Aspen Publishing has assigned to us. I am delighted to have an editor who I have previously worked well with on various projects.

Valentina Duran from the University of Chile’s Center for Environmental Law was kind enough to send me a photo displayed of her wearing a Maryland Law softball cap at Laguna Biscanti near San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile. She proposes that we try to collect photos of the hat in as many far flung locations as possible. Valentina’s Center will be hosting a conference on “Sustainable Development: Governance and Law” from June 25-27, 2008. My proposal to prepare a paper on “The Emergence of Global Environmental Law” for the conference has been approved. While I am not certain whether I will be able to attend the conference in person (it’s a very long way from Beijing), I will submit a Spanish translation of the paper for the publication that the Center will be distributing at the conference.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

UCLA Meeting, EU Targets & Focus the Nation

On January 24 I attended a meeting of the directors of environmental law programs that was convened by the UCLA School of Law. There were more than 30 representatives of approximately two dozen U.S. law schools present at the meeting. At the meeting we discussed recent developments in our programs and how to improve the education of future environmental lawyers. A similar meeting was hosting by UCLA in April 2006. There seemed to be a strong sense that the global climate crisis was making environmental law a hot field once again. UCLA announced that they just received a donation with a matching gift challenge totaling $10 million to set up a new Center on Climate Change and the Environment. The gift will enable UCLA School of Law to establish a new endowed chair for an environmental law professor. Several schools indicated that they are hiring additional environmental law professors. There was surprisingly little discussion of global environmental law initiatives by the schools, aside from a few that already are well known.

On January 25 the UCLA Law Review hosted a climate change conference that I attended. It featured some terrific presentations, including a panel that featured California Air Resources Board (CARB) chairman Mary Nichols, who discussed the state’s ambitious plans to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. She explained how the state already has done so much to promote energy efficiency that there is not nearly as much “low hanging fruit” available. I know Mary from long ago when I was an attorney for Environmental Defense and she was a member of our board of directors. I spoke with her after her presentation and she told me that both Senators Clinton and Obama have pledged to reverse EPA’s veto of the state’s regulations to control GHG emissions from motor vehicles. During the Republican presidential debate on January 30, all four of the Republican candidates stated that they favored a reversal of EPA's decision. While at UCLA I thought about how different my career might have been if I had accepted their law school’s offer of a faculty position in 1981 when Bill Warren was their dean and I was finishing my clerkship with Justice White. I instead opted to join Environmental Defense because I felt strongly that it was important to gain experience in practice before embarking on a teaching career. As a result I was able to develop expertise in environmental law.

On January 23 the European Commission unveiled its proposed country-by-country targets for achieving its commitments to reduce overall GHG emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels and to produce 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020. The “Climate Action and Renewable Energy Package” proposes a 10 percent reduction below 2005 levels of GHG emissions from transport, housing, agriculture, and waste - sectors not currently included in the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS). Proposed national emissions targets vary by country with the richer countries, such as Denmark, required to cut GHG emissions by 20% below 2005 levels and poorer countries, such as Romania and Bulgaria, allowed to increase their emissions by 20 percent. It is estimated that the overall cost of complying with these targets will be approximately $90 billion, about 0.5% of total EU GDP, but that they will prevent damage nearly ten times greater than the cost. The proposal also provides for a transition to auctioning emissions allowances that currently are being distributed for free. Details of the package are available online at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/climate_action.htm

On January 31, more than 1,700 schools and universities throughout the U.S. hosted a "Focus the Nation" national “teach-in” focusing on the global climate crisis. The event was the brainchild of economics professor Eban Goodstein from Lewis & Clark College in Portland. Students from the University of Maryland School of Law organized one of the most comprehensive programs held at any law school in the U.S. The event opened at 9:30am with a keynote address from Shari Wilson, Maryland’s Secretary of the Environment. The conference, which drew a large audience, featured a variety of panels, running until 5pm, that focused on how law, science and technology can contribute to solving the global climate crisis. Videos of each of the panel presentations made at the event are available online at:

I did not participate in the law school event because I was serving as the keynote speaker at the University of Maryland-College Park’s “Focus the Nation” program. Following my keynote, the College Park program featured panels on the ecologic, economic, and political dimensions of the climate crisis, a panel on citizen action, a green fair, and a movie presentation that ran until 9pm in the evening. See http://www.focusthenation.umd.edu/schedule.html. At the event I met some of College Park’s climate scientists, who among other things are tracing global pollution plumes. They noted that they had been studying through air sampling in the upper atmosphere pollution plumes produced by China that can be traced all the way to California. However, they noted that it is difficult to detect pollution plumes from India, which they attributed to its lower level of economic activity.