On Monday and Tuesday I participated in the 23rd Biennial Congress of the World Jurist Association in Kiev, Ukraine. The opening ceremonies on Monday were held in Ukraine House, a large conference hall in downtown Kiev. The participants included several officials of the government of Ukraine including Mykola Onishchuk, the Minister of Justice of Ukraine, and Vasyl Onopenko, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Ukraine. Minister Onishchuk gave a spirited speech about the importance of the rule of law. After the ceremonies, I spoke with some of the lawyers in the audience who observed that the legal system in Ukraine is still plagued by corruption even at the highest levels. They were pessimistic about the immediate prospects for reform.
On Tuesday morning I spoke on a panel about how climate change is affecting the development of environmental law around the world. Also on the panel were Alice Skipper, a dynamic young lawyer from Melbourne, Australia who spoke about how the recent bush fires in Australia have brought home the immediate consequences of global warming. Monica Grill from the ministry of foreign affairs of Argentina spoke about the role of forestry protection in efforts to combat climate change. Leslie LoBaugh from Fulbright & Jaworski’s Los Angeles office described California’s ambitious program to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. I spoke about how climate change was influencing the development of global environmental law.
On Wednesday I flew back to the U.S. in time to teach my class at Maryland on Thursday morning (Harvard was on break this week). On Thursday afternoon I spoke at a conference at American University’s Washington College of Law. The conference theme was “Chinese Development and Environmental Challenges: As Goes China, So Goes the World.” My presentation (“Exporting Responsibility for Climate Change: China’s Pre-Copenhagen Gambit”) criticized the argument that China should not be responsible for GHG emissions caused by the production of exported products. I argued that this would be a logistical nightmare to implement, that it was directly contrary to the trend to require producers to take greater responsibility for the environmental impacts of their production decisions and that it violated the “polluter pays” principle that recognizes the importance of internalizing environmental externalities.
On Thursday night I flew to Tampa to meet my former students from Beijing who were the first Chinese students to participate in the finals of the International Environmental Moot Court. On Friday morning I watched the team of Huang Jing and Wang Wanlin from the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) defeat a team from Brazil in the second preliminary round of the competition, which was held at Stetson University College of Law. On Friday afternoon I watched the CUPL team defeat a team from India, which enabled them to advance to the quarterfinals of the competition on Saturday morning. In the quarterfinal round the CUPL team lost to a fabulous team from the Law Society of Ireland, the team that ultimately won the competition by beating the team from the University of California-Hastings in the final round. At the awards ceremony following the competition, the CUPL team was recognized for having written the second best applicant’s memorial in the competition. I am so proud of them and thrilled that they carried out the idea I brought with me when I went to China to teach last year -- that CUPL could become the first Chinese law school to enter the competition.
Teams from seventeen schools in ten countries won the right to participate in the international finals, including teams from Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Nepal, Nigeria, the Philippines, Ukraine, and the United States. Following the awards ceremony I took the CUPL students to the beach at Fort DeSoto Park where they were able to unwind and dip their feet into the wind-swept waters of the Gulf of Mexico. We then all had dinner together on the St. Petersburg pier that juts out into Tampa Bay. I was delighted to get to spend some time with my former students from China and I look forward to seeing them again when I return to China in early May.