On Tuesday January 27, Bruce Rich, co-director of International Programs for the Environmental Defense Fund, was a guest lecturer in my Global Environmental Law Seminar. Bruce discussed the impact on the global environment of government agencies providing export credit guarantees and multilateral development banks financing large development projects. Bruce also discussed the Equator Principles and the OECD’s Common Approaches on Environment and Officially Supported Export Credits. One of the most interesting parts of his lecture was his explanation of how the developed countries have "carved out" an exception to WTO rules banning export subsidies by allowing government-sponsored export credit agencies to provide such subsidies.
Bruce is the author of Mortgaging the Earth, a devastating critique of the environmental obliviousness of the World Bank published by Beacon Press in 1995. Bruce endorsed the notion that a kind of “global environmental law” is emerging to govern the practices of multilateral development banks and private multinationals funding projects with significant environmental impacts. He noted that some major loopholes have emerged, such as the funding of coal-fired powerplants by agencies claiming to be reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Bruce’s most recent book, To Uphold the World: The Message of Ashoka and Kautilya for the 21st Century (see Jan. 4 blog entry) can be ordered online through an Indian bookseller at: http://www.bookshopofindia.com.
On my parallel blog at www.globalenvironmentallaw.com, which includes much cooler graphics, I have used Apple’s new iLife program, which was introduced at Macworld earlier this month (see January 6 blog entry). It includes an updated version of the iWeb program on which this blog is prepared for that website. At www.globalenvironmentallaw.com I’ve experimented with some of iWeb’s new features by inserting a YouTube link at the bottom of this post and by pasting in photo galleries to my previous posts from November 13 (Mexico City IUCN Conference), December 14 (Beijing and Shanghai) and December 28 (Hong Kong & Harbin). I’ve also inserted a “countdown clock” on the welcome page of this website to count down the time to Maryland’s hosting of the International Environmental Moot Court Competition’s North American finals Atlantic Rounds. (This blog does not use iLife so it does not include these features).
Last weekend Maryland’s team competed in the Pacific Rounds of the International Environmental Moot Court at the University of Santa Clara, but did not advance. For next week's Atlantic Rounds of the North American Finals at Maryland we have arranged a spectacularly qualified group of judges for next week’s competition at Maryland. The final round will be judged by Bruce Rich, Dan Magraw (president and CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law), and Paul Hagen (chairman of the board of the Environmental Law Institute).
On Thursday January 29 a group of Jordanian law professors visited the law school. Dr. Sayel Al-Momani, dean of the law faculty of Irbid National University, visited my Constitutional Law class where we were discussing standing. Following class two of my students, including one who is a Palestinian, introduced themselves to Dr. Al-Momani in Arabic. We had lunch following class where we were joined by three other Jordanian professors who engaged us in a lively discussion of the state of legal education in the Middle East and the impact of Israel’s invasion of Gaza on the prospects for peace in the region. I reminisced about being in Jordan in October 2000 for the IUCN’s World Conservation Congress, which was hosted by Queen Noor. The opening ceremonies were held in the Roman amphitheater in Amman and we spent a day visiting Petra, one of the most spectacular World Heritage sites. While law is an undergraduate subject in Jordan, as is the case in most of the world, one professor expressed the view that there are too many law faculties in Jordan as 17 universities teach law in a country of 5.5 million people. He noted that it is difficult to retain the best faculty because much higher salaries are offered by law school in Gulf states like Qatar that are just an hour away.
As a new generation of nuclear powerplants using the EPR design is being launched, questions were raised this week about the hazards of the waste they will generate. EPR, which initially stood for the Evolutionary Power Reactor, but now is commonly called the European Pressurized Reactor, is a third generation pressurized water reactor. These reactors are supposed to be safer, cheaper, easier to build, and yet capable of generating significantly more electricity per unit of nuclear fuel than other designs. Two EPR reactors currently are under construction: one at Olkiluoto, an island off the western coast of Finland, and the Flamanville project in the Basse-Normandie region of France. Construction was started on the Finnish project in 2005, but it is now three years behind schedule and greatly over budget and is not expected to go online until 2012. Construction of the first EPR in France commenced in December 2007 with a projected 2012 completion date. The Chinese government also has announced plans to build two nuclear powerplants using the EPR design. Contracts for the design of the Chinese Taishan 1 & 2 project were signed in July 2008.
On Thursday the French government announced that it would build a second EPR in Penly in northern France. Greenpeace maintains that the nuclear waste generated by the EPR will be seven times more hazardous than hihg-level radioactive waste generated by other nuclear powerplants. Areva, the French company that designed the EPR, concedes that the waste will be more radioactive, but only by 15 percent at most. James Kanter, “Warning Sounded as France Moves Ahead on Reactor,” N.Y. Times, Jan. 31, 2009, p. B2. No long-term facilities currently exists for storing high-level radioactive waste, though a tunnel is under construction at Olkiluoto in Finland in hopes of storing the waste 1,300 feet underground. The U.S. has spent billions to prepare a facility at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, but the project’s fate is uncertain. During the presidential campagin Barack Obama expressed opposition to opening Yucca Mountain. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpwGnHRv-L4