I have now finished the first week of my two-week lecture tour of China sponsored by the U.S. State Department. On Monday morning I spoke to a terrific group of faculty and students at Sun Yat-Sen University Law School in Guangzhou on “The Emergence of Global Environmental Law.” Sun Yat-sen is the law school that is a partner in Vermont Law School’s AID-funded project. Some of the students in the audience told me that they have helping translate Chinese cases into English for the Global Environmental Law casebook that I am working on with Professor Tseming Yang of Vermont. The students seemed to respond well to my talk, in particular to my challenge to them to join next year’s International Environmental Moot Court Competition. One of the faculty produced a newspaper announcement that I would be speaking on climate change on Tuesday and expressed interest in attending that talk as well. Following the talk, Professor Li and others hosted a lunch for me on campus.
On Monday afternoon I spoke to a group of forty lawyers at the Guangzhou Lawyers’ Association on the same global environmental law topic. Approximately a dozen of the lawyers were from the Association’s Environment Committee, a hopeful sign for the development of an environmental bar. My standard pitch about the importance of China agreeing to limit its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at next December’s Copenhagen conference sparking some vigorous debate, with the lawyer who introduced me charging that developed countries were using the climate issue to retard China’s growth. I responded with every argument I could muster and from the audience’s body language I think I may have changed some minds.
After the talk at the bar association, I returned to the U.S. Consulate where I did a 90-minute interview with journalist Luo Jinyu who writes for Citizen Magazine, a highly respected publication that I’m told has done some excellent investigative journalism. The questions were fascinating and wide-ranging - lessons China can learn from the history of U.S. environmental law, trends in environmental law around the world, what role developing countries should agree to play in controlling GHG emissions, how to reconcile economic development with environmental protection.
On Tuesday I gave three talks in Guangzhou. The day started with a talk to 60 science students at Jinan University’s School of Environmental Sciences on “The Global Challenge of Responding to Climate Change.” The talk was very well received by the students, only a handful of whom had seen Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth.” Edward Dunn from the U.S. Consulate explained that the film’s title does not translate well into Chinese, which has limited its popularity here. The Jinan faculty expressed interest in having me visit again, perhaps to do a short course as a senior Fulbright specialist.
I was the luncheon speaker on Tuesday at the U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou, which I was informed is the fourth largest U.S. consular facility in the world. Judging from the size of the waiting room for applicants for U.S. visas and the size of the crowd waiting in line outside, this would not surprise me. Prior to lunch there was considerable excitement because the Houston Rockets had defeated the LA Lakers in Los Angeles. Staff from the consulate reported that large crowds of Chinese had gathered to watch the game on TVs in store windows, rooting for the Rockets because they are led by Chinese star Yao Ming. My luncheon talk focused on the state of environmental law around the world. A 1982 graduate from the University of Maryland School of Law, who works as a deputy consul general, introduced himself to me. I also met the vice consul for the Economic/Political Section who is responsible for dealing with environmental issues. The consulate’s high-definition flat screen on which my slides were projected made them look stunning.
After lunch we drove for nearly an hour to University Town, a sprawling suburban complex where several universities are located. I spoke to an audience of undergraduate and graduate students and faculty at the Law School of the South China University of Technology (SCUT). I was greeted by Hongyi Ge, dean of the law school, who had tea with me, Ed Dunn, and Megan, the consulate’s terrific interpreter. Dean Hongyi was particularly proud of the fact that the law school had not one, but two, environmental law professors, who he introduced to us. SCUT’s law school has an intellectual property center and they proudly displayed their moot court room. They have started a legal clinic that does not have any specific specialty yet. After I gave my lecture about global environmental law, Dean Hongyi hosted a dinner in our honor at an excellent restaurant owned by the university.
On Wednesday morning I flew to Dalian, a beautiful coastal city in northeastern China just across the Yellow Sea from Pyongyang, North Korea. It is famous for being the site of the Siege of Port Arthur, an important battle during the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. I was met at the airport by a Yu Li, a cultural assistant from the U.S. consulate in Shenyang. We checked into the Bayshore Hotel, a sail-shaped building on the oceanfront that mimics the design of the famous Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai. After a brief rest we went to the Dalian Maritime University Law School where I gave a presentation on global environmental law. Dalian is the home of China’s largest shipyard and the law school specializes in maritime law. I met Lixon Han, director of the maritime law department of the school, who had previously visited at Tulane Law School. After my talk, which I adjusted to focus more on marine pollution issues, the law school hosted us for dinner at a local Korean barbeque restaurant.
On Thursday morning I spoke about climate change at the Dalian Academy of Environmental Science. Huang Jian Hui, deputy director of the Dalian Environmental Protection Bureau, and Xia Jin, chief engineer for the Dalian Municipal Design & Research Institute of Environmental Science met us when we arrived at the school. My talk sparked a lively discussion concerning what China’s role should be in a post-Kyoto regime to control emissions of GHGs. Some of the faculty in the audience questioned whether climate change was real and whether it was caused by human activity, but most of the discussion focused on what could be done to respond to the problem. The audience seemed particularly interested in hearing about how the Obama administration is changing U.S. climate policy and moving to establish a national program to control GHG emissions, something that should greatly enhance our bargaining position in Copenhagen. After lunch at the university, Yu Li and our driver took me on a tour of the waterfront and up the coastline northeast from Dalian. I then flew back to Beijing on Thursday afternoon.
On Saturday I spoke at the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) in Beijing to a group of fifty directors and leading officials from Chinese environmental protection bureaus. The group, which came from 21 provinces of China, was at the MEP for a weekend training session. I was the first speaker after the opening ceremonies and I spoke for 90 minutes on enforcement and environmental federalism, followed by a half hour of questions and discussion. This group was really engaged in the topic and we had a great question and answer session covering a wide range of topics including civil and criminal enforcement, recovery of natural resource damages, obstacles to regulation, citizen suits and permit fees.
During the second week of my China trip I will be speaking in Beijing at Tsinghua University and the China University of Political Science and Law before leaving for Chongqing, Shanghai and Suzhou.