I've just returned from a week and a half in China where I spoke at conferences in Shanghai, Wuhan and Beijing and gave a guest lecture to students in Shanghai. Because I was behind the "great firewall" I was unable to post on this site last week, though I was able to post on my parallel site at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com. The following is the November 1 posting that I am belatedly posting here. I will shortly post an update on activities during the past week.
On Wednesday morning I flew to China where I will be speaking at three conferences over the course of 11 days. Shortly after arriving in Shanghai on Thursday afternoon I met with Jim Curtis and May Wang from the Maryland China Center to help organize a reception for the Maryland law students I will be bringing to China in March 2010. The Center, which was established by the state of Maryland, hosted a similar reception for the group of Maryland faculty, students, and alums who visited me in China in March 2008 when I was teaching in Beijing as a Fulbright scholar. I was delighted to discover that the Maryland Center can provide a much wider range of services than I previously had anticipated.
On Thursday evening I gave a guest lecture at the East China Normal University in Shanghai. The class on “Law and Society” was part of New York University’s “NYU in Shanghai” program. Most of the students in the class were NYU undergraduates, though there were a few students from other universities as well. I gave a broad historical outline of how environmental law had developed in the U.S. and China and I discussed how climate change was helping to drive the development of global environmental law.
On Friday I met Professor Linda Malone from William and Mary at the Shangri-La Hotel in Pudong. We took a taxi together for the long trip out into the suburbs for a conference on “US NEPA, Environmental Federalism, Climate Change and New Developments in Environmental Law and Policy.” The conference was co-sponsored by Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) and Pace University’s Center for Environmental Legal Studies. It was designed to bring legal scholars from the U.S., China and Australia together with Chinese environmental officials to compare notes on new developments in environmental law. The U.S. presentations focused on explaining how the process of environmental impact assessment is conducted under our National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and efforts to control U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs).
I made a presentation on “Climate Change and Environmental Federalism in the Aftermath of Massachusetts v. EPA.” Former congressman Dick Ottinger from Pace discussed the Waxman-Market bill that passed the U.S. House in June and Professor Rob Fowler from the University of South Australia explored efforts in South Australia to encourage environmentally sustainable development. Yang Chaofei, director of the Policy and Law Department of China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) and Bie Tao, general counsel of MEP spoke about China’s efforts to control pollution. SJTU Professor Wang Xi presented a detailed comparison of U.S. and Chinese environmental law. We had a lively discussion concerning differences in the legislative process between China and the U.S. with private industry having much more influence in our Congress. I raised the question whether this might actually contribute to U.S. environmental laws being easier to enforce because the regulated community must take them more seriously.
Justice Johann van der Westhuizen of the Constitutional Court of South Africa visited the University of Maryland School of Law as a Distinguished Visitor this week. On Monday he spoke at a luncheon at the school where he discussed the work of his Court and the importance of maintaining respect for the rule of law. I asked him about his Court’s decision in the Mazibuko right to water case where the court overturned a lower court decision that had increased free water allotments to communities to 50 liters per day. Justice van der Westhuizen stated that the was surprised by the harsh reaction to the decision by NGOs around the world. He explained that the court did not want to micromanage the implementation of economic and social rights in the South African Constitution. He expressed the view that the government was in the best position to determine the reasonableness of water allotments in compliance with Article 27 of the Constitution. This article obliges the state to take reasonable measures, within available resources, to give everyone access to sufficient water.
On Saturday I spent the day with my friends Dan Guttman and Zhenzhi (“Zee Zee”) Zhong. Dan has been teaching in China for more than five years now since initially coming here as a Fulbright Scholar. Zee Zee helps run Shanghai Roots & Shoots. After visiting the Roots & Shoots office we went to the top of the spectacular Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC), which has the world’s tallest observation deck. It provided a truly spectacular view of Shanghai. We then visited the Tai Kang Lu arts district, followed by drinks at the spectacular Vu Bar at the Park Hyatt and a fabulous Japanese dinner at Kagen Teppanyaki. As to the question whether they celebrate Halloween in Shanghai, the answer is definitely “Yes”. Lots of shops had Halloween displays and the attendants at the SWFC were dressed in witches’ costumes with Harry Potter music playing throughout. I am now about the fly to Wuhan for the annual colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law.