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

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Univ. of Chile IV Jornadas & Garrison Lecture

On Monday night I flew to Santiago, Chile to speak at the University of Chile’s IV Jornadas de Dercho Ambiental. When I arrived in Santiago on Tuesday morning, I discovered that the airline had sent my bag to Buenos Aires by mistake. It was not until late Tuesday night that my bag arrived at my hotel, relieving my fears that I would have to deliver my presentation wearing the only clothes I had with me for nearly two days.

I gave the second presentation at the opening session following a talk by Ana Lya Uriarte, the head of Chile’s EPA (the Comisión Nacional del Medio Ambiente or CONAMA). Señora Uriarte discussed the government of Chile’s ambitious plans to completely reorganize CONAMA into a cabinet-level Ministry of the Environment with an independent Superintedencia to enforce Chile’s environmental laws. I spoke about “The Emergence of Global Environmental Law” and I showed photos of environmental conditions in China, as well as video clips from the environmental law movies my Chinese students made. My slides had been translated into Spanish, as was my paper, which was published as the opening chapter in an impressive book released by the conference sponsor, the Centro de Derecho Ambiental, on the final day of the conference.

The conference was terrific with its sessions featuring simultaneous translation into English and French. Speakers from Argentina, France, and Denmark also participated in the conference. The large audience was particularly impressive because it featured government officials from national and provincial agencies from all over Chile adn representatives from 10 of the 14 schools of the University of Chile. They engaged the speakers in wide-ranging discussions about the future of environmental law in Chile. Rafael Ansejo, a former CONAMA director, argued that the reorganization outlined by Señora Uriarte would only be successful if the President of Chile demonstrated the poltical will to make environmental protection a top priority.

Nestor Cafferatta, a professor at the University of Buenos Aires gave a great presentation on the use of criminal law to enforce environmental regulations. He noted that Ricardo Lorenzetti, Chief Justice of Argentina, has just published a book on The Theory of Environmental Law that argues that environmental law should be viewed as a transformative force. Chief Justice Lorenzetti states that “environmental law is a party to which all other branches of law are invited, but are told to wear new clothes.”

Following the conference I flew to Buenos Aires for the weekend. Due to heavy fog, my flight from Santiago was diverted from Ezezia International Airport to the Jorge Newbery commuter airport. While I initially thought this would get me to my hotel faster, it turned out that the small customs operation at the commuter airport was totally overwhelmed, creating a mob scene with hour-plus waits. While standing in the crowd, I heard a voice say, “Welcome to Argentina, Robert.” It was Professor Cafferatta. We had a nice conversation in Spanish where he complimented me on having mentioned Chief Justice Lorenzetti’s order to clean up the Riachuelo River in the paper published in the book released at the conference. On Sunday I visited the Riachuelo River to see for myself what progress had been made.

I was delighted to accept an invitation from Pace University to deliver their annual Lloyd K. Garrison Lecture on Environmental Law in April 2009. This lecture series has made some rich contributions to environmental law scholarship. I plan to present an updated and greatly expanded discussion of my theme about the emergence of global law and how it is transforming the environmental law field.

After meeting with a WHO official here in Buenos Aires tomorrow morning, I will fly back to the U.S. via Santiago and D.C. I will be in D.C. and Baltimore on Tuesday before returning to China on Wednesday.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Student Movies, A Party & Visit to NRDC-Beijing

On Monday we had the final Environmental Law class of the semester and my students showed the films they had made. There were five films in all and they were surprisingly good, particularly considering that the students had never once asked me for any help. I simply gave them two video cameras, some digital videotape and a laptop with digital video editing software. I was really impressed with what the students produced.

“Red Beijing” featured some nice acting by the students as they tried to demonstrate the impact of air and noise pollution in the city on their daily lives. “Loving Animals Is Loving Ourselves” included photos of animals being rescued from the Sichuan earthquake and it urged people to take care of abandoned and orphaned pets. “Disposable Chopsticks” attempted to demonstrate the environmental damage caused by their use by involving actors playing the police and hospital employees. The students who made “White Plastic Pollution” interviewed shoppers about their reactions to China’s new ban on the free distribution of plastic bags by grocery stores. “Banana’s Fault” urged people to be more careful about their disposal of garbage by following around a banana peel. The films demonstrated great creativity and effort on the part of the students. I plan to host an Environmental Law FIlm Festival next fall where “Golden Tree” awards will be presented in various categories to the student filmmakers, just as we do at Maryland.

Professor Wang Canfa joined our class for its last half hour and he brought along the Olympic torch he had carried in Guizhou the previous Friday. After class he gave a wonderful thank you to me, which was followed by individual students taking turns expressing their thanks. I was really moved. We all posed for photos with the Olympic Torch and Professor Wang then took me out to dinner at the Tenggeli-Tala Inner Mongolian Opera dinner theater restaurant. Professor Xu Kedzhu, Zhang Jingjing and my assistant Huang Jing also joined us.

On Tuesday I hosted a group of 21 students for drinks at my apartment followed by dinner at the South Beauty Restaurant in Oriental Plaza. While I was unsure whether my one-bedroom apartment could accommodate such a large group, it worked out fine. We played a DVD of the student movies in the living room and a slide show of photos from this semester in my study. Photos of the party and the students posing with the Olympic torch after the last class are available online at: http://gallery.mac.com/rperci/100272.

On Wednesday I visited the Beijing office of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to give a lunch talk to their staff. The topic of my talk was “The History and Future of Global Environmental Law.” NRDC’s Beijing staff are expanding rapidly, due in part to a grant from the Google Foundation to work on green energy issues in China. They have just acquired additional office space that will more than double the size of their Beijing office.

After my final comparative environmental law class on Thursday I flew to D.C. en route to Chile to give a talk at the University of Chile’s annual environmental law conference. I stopped at home in in D.C. for the weekend and was able to attend the Washington Nationals/Texas Rangers games, accompanied by my nephew Andrew Percival who works for the Texas Rangers. On Friday night the game went into extra innings. After the top of the 14th with the game tied 3-3, the Nat Pack repeated their 7th inning t-shirt toss and I caught one of the t-shirts that were thrown into the stands from the top of the visitors’ dugout. I opened up the balled-up t-shirt I had caught and discovered that it said “Welcome Home.” I took that as a good omen and, sure enough, the Nats scored in the bottom of the 14th to win the game 4-3.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Holiday Class, Videoconference & Guangzhou

Last Monday the students in my Environmental Law class at the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) insisted on having class, even though it was the new national Dragon Boat Festival holiday in China. The students had arranged in advance to get the key to the projection equipment, but they were surprised to discover that it was not the only thing that was locked. The doors to the classroom where the course meets also were locked due to the holiday. After efforts to scour up a key failed, the enterprising students located an unlocked classroom and a spare projector which we used to display my slides on a bare wall after the students reversed all the desks in the room. It looked like every student in the class was there, an impressive testament to the high level of interest in environmental law among this very talented group.

On Thursday evening I was the guest speaker at a meeting of the China Roundtable held at the headquarters of Advanced Microdevices (AMD) in Austin, Texas. The China Roundtable is a group of environmental, health and safety officials from a dozen multinational corporations such as AMD, Intel, Procter & Gamble, and Levi Strauss. I appeared by videoconference from AMD’s Beijing office in the science park just south of Tsinghua University. My topic was the growth of environmental NGOs in China. Given the time difference, we started the conference at 9:30PM Beijing time, which was 8:30AM in Austin. Alex Wang, director of the Beijing office of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), agreed to come with me to share his insights on how NGOs like NRDC operate in China. Susan Keane, an NRDC scientist who is working on a project to help NGOs ensure that their Chinese supply chains are green, also participated by phone from Washington, D.C.

I gave a brief history of the development of environmental NGOs in China and discussed the problems they face: they can be shut down by the Chinese government at any time (as happened to the China Development Brief last year), they have a hard time establishing reliable sources of financing given the lack of tax incentives in China for making contributions to NGOs, and they can have a difficult time publicizing problems given government censorship of the Chinese media. I also discussed whether the Sichuan earthquake has changed Chinese attitudes toward the foreign media and charitable contributions to NGOs. The videoconference was hosted by my former student Steve Groseclose (head of global environmental health and safety for AMD). Despite some initial technical glitches, it seemed to go very well. I am really grateful to Steve for inviting me and to Alex and Susan for agreeing to participate in the program.

On Friday morning I flew from Beijing to Guangzhou to participate in a Workshop on Environmental Law Teaching and Research Capacity Building. The workshop was the South China equivalent of the roundtable I participated in last Sunday in Beijing. It brought together 41 environmental law faculty from 24 schools. The workshop was sponsored by Sun Yat-sen University School of Law and Vermont Law School (VLS), funded by VLS’s AID grant. Sun Yat-sen Professor Li Zhiping and VLS Professor Tseming Yang organized the conference. I gave an opening presentation on the teaching of environmental law, focusing primarily on the experience of the U.S. supplemented by my experiences this semester at CUPL. Shanghai Jiao Tong law professor Wan Xi, who has authored the materials most environmental law professors in South China seem to use, spoke about the need for better supervision by the National People’s Congress and the judiciary to remedy government failures in the environmental area.

Li Ziphing, who has 20 years experience teaching environmental law, discussed her teaching methods, as did VLS Professor Mark Latham, who discussed his course on Environmental Issues in Business Transactions. Professor Du Wanping of Jinan University discussed her use of “social investigations” by teams of students to expose violations of laws to protect sources of drinking water. (Professor Du will be visiting at the University of Kansas School of Law during the next academic year). Ben Boer, director of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law with a joint appointment from the University of Sydney and the University of Ottawa, discussed the difficulties Chinese universities face in responding to the Ministry of Education’s edict that all schools must offer a course in environmental law. The Academy is developing a training course to help prepare more professors to teach environmental law. Professor Wang Zican from the South China University of Technology discussed typical Chinese environmental law syllabi and why some Chinese law professors do not fully appreciate the importance of the subject as a legal discipline. He mapped out a strategy for “the comeback of Environmental Law as part of ‘legal science’.” Marc Mihaly, director of VLS’s Environmental Law Center, discussed Vermont’s extensive environmental law curriculum.

The Q & A sessions featured a discussion of China’s response to the climate crisis. I mentioned the new statistics showing that China has eclipsed the U.S. as the largest source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, accounting for three-quarters of the global increase last year. Professor Du Wanping argued that the U.S. bears responsibility for Chinese emissions because U.S. consumers purchase the products whose manufacture generates the emissions. While I agreed that the Bush administration’s response to the problem has been indefensible, I noted that U.S. policy definitely would change as soon as a new president is inaugurated next January. I questioned whether it was good strategy for China to blame the U.S. for its emissions when the U.S. has no way to directly control them other than refusing to buy Chinese products or imposing a stiff environmental tariff. We all appeared to agree that it is a global problem that requires a global solution.

On Sunday morning VLS Professor Carl Yirka gave a great presentation on researching global environmental law. Tseming Yang closed the workshop by expressing his hope that it will be the start of a continuing dialogue and greater collaborative initiatives among environmental law professors in South China and the rest of the world. Ben Boer reports that 15 Chinese law schools have now joined the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law, which gives them greater representation in the Academy than the North American law schools.

Tomorrow my Environmental Law students will be premiering the films they have made for the class. I am really excited about getting to see them.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

A Mock Trial, A New Law, A Guest Lecture & A Roundtable

This has been another busy week. On Monday and Tuesday I served as a judge for a mock murder trial held at the China University of Finance and Economics (CUFE). The trial was the brainchild of Fulbright professor Ann Murphy from Gonzaga University School of Law who has been teaching at CUFE throughout the current academic year. The trial was the Phil Spector murder case and the Chinese students did a fabulous job. The jury, which consisted of students from three Chinese law schools, including some of my students from CUPL, returned a verdict of acquittal. CUFE’s moot courtroom was impressive. Two of the members of the defense team - Song Ci and Zhang Jinrong - will be studying at the University of Maryland School of Law next year as part of our exchange program with CUFE.

My CUPL environmental law students are busy preparing their short documentary films. On Sunday June 1 China’s ban on free distribution of plastic bags by grocery stores took effect and the group preparing the film about it sprang into action. They requested permission to film inside a Beijing grocery store, but were told that the manager had to get approval from the central office which was closed on Sunday. So the students camped outside the store and interviewed shoppers as they emerged to get their reactions to the new law.

On Wednesday June 4 I gave a guest lecture at CUPL to Alan Lepp's seminar on the American judiciary. I spoke about my experience as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron R. White. The lecture gave me a rare chance to tell old war stories and to revisit some great experiences from decades ago. In preparation for the lecture I went on Westlaw to look up some of the opinions I had helped draft, which brought back memories from long ago. I tried to give the students a sense of how the Court has changed over the years, and yet how many traditions remain nearly the same today.

On June 5 China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) released its 2007 Report on the State of the Environment in China to coincide with World Environment Day. The MEP reported progress in some areas, but worrisome conditions in others. The report prompted an unusually candid editorial in the China Daily stressing the urgency of even stronger measures to protect the environment. According to the editorial, the good news was that sulphur dioxide emissions in China declined by 4.7% as the percentage of coal-fired powerplants with technology to reduce sulphur emissions increased to 48% from 12% in 2005. The percentage of cities with wastewater treatment increased from 52 to 60%. “Yet, pollution in major waterways such as the Yangtze, Yellow and Huaihe rivers is still serious and shows no sign of major improvement. So is the case with the pollution in the country’s major lakes. What is even more worrisome is the finding in the report about the deteriorating biology and environmental pollution in rural areas.” Make Growth Greener, China Daily, June 5, 2008, at p. 8. The actual report has not yet been posted on the MEP’s website.

On Sunday June 8 I participated in a fascinating Environmental Law Teaching and Research Roundtable organized by the Environmental and Natural Resources Research Institute of CUPL and Vermont Law School (VLS). Tseming Yang, Mark Latham and Jingjing Liu represented VLS at the roundtable. The program was financed by Vermont’s AID grant to promote collaborative work on environmental law with Chinese law schools. I made a presentation on trends in environmental law teaching in the United States. It gave me a chance to revisit a project I pursued long ago that gathered data on the teaching of environmental law in U.S. law schools. The data wI gathered were published in the April 1993 issue of Environment magazine. The roundtable included all of the top environmental law professors in northern China as well as many newcomers to the Chinese environmental academy. This is a group that clearly gets along well and is keenly interested in collaborating, despite sometimes fierce competition among their law schools. The roundtable lasted all day and included some fascinating and frank exchanges about the state of environmental law teaching and research in China. Considerable dissatisfaction was expressed about the state of teaching materials pertaining to Chinese environmental law.

Tomorrow is a national holiday in China - the Dragon Boat Festival. It is a newly-minted holiday as part of the Chinese government’s plan to replace the week-long “Golden Week” holiday during the first week in May with several single-day holidays. Despite the holiday, my Environmental Law students are insisting that we have class since the end of the semester is near.