On Monday top officials from China and the U.S. met in Washington for the latest round in the continuing Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the two countries. Press reports indicate that the meetings were quite cordial with the U.S. emphasizing the importance of responding to climate change rather than repeating old arguments about currency manipulation. In reporting on the meetings the Washington Post on Wednesday noted that the two countries are the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHGs), but it erroneously stated that neither country had adopted the Kyoto Protocol. China has ratified the Kyoto Protocol and is one of the 187 countries that have accepted it, though the Protocol requires only developed countries (and not China) to limit their emissions during the period it covers (2008-2012). I noted this error in an email to one of the Post reporters who contributed to the article. He thanked me for pointing this out and on Saturday the Post published a correction.
Chinese environmentalists won a significant victory when the Chinese government announced that a $5 billion refinery and petrochemical plant planned by Sinopec and the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation will not be built in southern Guangzhou. Plans to locate the facility there had generated vociferous public opposition. The area, less than 40 miles from Hong Kong, is already heavily polluted. After 14 members of the provincial congress had opposed the facility, environmental officials used information in the environmental impact assessment to question the project’s impact on air pollution. Wang Yang, the provincial party secretary, stated that the decision “reflects how [the province of] Guangdong values environmental protection, the ecology and the opinions of our citizens.” Tom Mitchell, China Bows to Pressure on Refinery, FInancial Times, July 31, 2009.
Indian environmental officials continued to take a hard line refusing to accept any limits on their country’s emissions of GHGs, even as they prepared to unveil new renewable energy targets. The Indian government is expected next month to announce a $19 billion program to expand the use of solar power to 20 gigawatss by the year 2020. However, on Friday India’s environment minister Jairam Ramesh stated that it will be at least ten years before India is willing to accept even limited targets for its GHG emissions. Ramesh stated that the “hypocrisy” of the U.S. and the EU’s failure to meet its own Kyoto obligations will make it easier for India to resist making emission control commitments at the Copenhagen conference in December.
On Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009 by a vote of 283-142. The bill, which still must pass the Senate to become law, increases the power of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent contamination of the food supply and to respond to incidents of contamination. The legislation would require more frequent inspection of food processing and storage facilities, give the FDA the power to order recalls of tainted food, and direct the FDA to create a tracking system to make it easier to determine the sources of contamination.
On Friday I had a farewell lunch with two Chinese law students who have been studying in Maryland this year. Qiu Dan (Joanna) is a student from the Central University of Finance and Economics (CUFE) in Beijing. She has been studying at Maryland this spring as part of our exchange program with CUFE. This summer she has been working as a research assistant for me, providing invaluable help in research aspects of Chinese law. The other students is Siwei, a graduate of Qingdao University who has spent the last year taking courses at Johns Hopkins University prior to starting an LL.M. program next fall at McGeorge School of Law. I first met Siwei in October 2007 when I visited Qingdao to give some guest lectures. While in college Siwei assisted lawyers investigating cases, including a case that resulted in compensation for a land seizure. Both Joanna and Siwei will be returning to China next week. Joanna will finish her final year at CUFE and Siwei will visit relatives before returning to the U.S. in the fall to start at McGeorge.