Last week the nations of Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC countries) announced that they would file statements of the “nationally appropriate mitigation actions” they would undertake “voluntarily” to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in accordance with Appendix II of the Copenhagen Accord. Last Monday Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) , issued a clarification (Thttp://unfccc.int/files/parties_and_observers/notifications/application/pdf/100125_noti_clarification.pdf) stating that because the Copenhagen Accord is “a political agreement rather than a treaty instrument subject to signature,” countries can associate themselves with it through “a simple letter or note verbale to the secretariat.”
The U.S. announced its “quantified economy-wide emissions targets” for 2020 in accordance with Appendix I of the Copenhagen Accord. The U.S. target is for a 17 percent reduction in GHG emissions from 2005 levels, consistent with the proposal in the cap-and-trade legislation that passed the House in June. On Friday the White House announced that federal agencies would seek to reduce their GHG emissions by 28 percent by 2020 compared with 2008 levels. The U.S. Department of Defense has set an even more ambitious GHG reduction target for itself of 34 percent by 2020, though it excludes energy use by combat forces. On Friday the state of Massachusetts announced what it called the nation’s most ambitious energy efficiency standards for electric utilities. The standards, which implement the state’s Green Communities Act, call for a 2.4% reduction in electricity use and a 1.15% reductions in natural gas use annually for the next three years. China last week announced the formation of a National Energy Commission chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao to improve coordination of the nation’s energy policy.
On Thursday Yale Professor Dan Esty released the 2010 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) at the World Economic Forum in Davos. The rankings are available online at: http://epi.yale.edu/ Like the U.S. News rankings of law schools and universities, the index is controversial because there is no one correct way to evaluate the myriad of factors that go into environmental performance, much less boil them down to a single number. A year after a new U.S. president with dramatically improved environmental policies took office, it seems strange to see that the U.S. has dropped substantially to 61st place in the global rankings and now ranks below Paraguay. But the EPI certainly has attracted global attention with officials from many countries lobbying for improved rankings.
Last week Russian police raided the offices of Baikal Ecological Wave, an environmental group in Irkutsk that is protesting a plan to reopen a large paper mill on the shores of Lake Baikal. The OAO Baikalsk Pulp & Paper Mill was shut down in 2008 after it was ordered to stop dumping waste into the lake. However, the Russian government recently reversed this order and the plant is about to resume its operations dumping waste in the lake. Russian authorities seized the computers of Baikal Ecological Wave, claiming that it suspected they contained pirated software. The group denies the charge. The Russian authorities deny that the raid was designed to suppress the group’s protest.
On Wednesday the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted 3-2 to issue interpretive guidance requiring companies to disclose to investors the financial risks that climate change poses to them. The guidance states that companies should disclose the material risks of legislation and regulations, including international agreements, to control GHG emissions, the indirect financial consequences of business trends caused by reaction to climate change, and the physical impacts of climate change (such as increased losses to insurance companies caused by environmental damage). The SEC’s press release on the guidance is available online at: http://www.sec.gov/news/press/2010/2010-15.htm
On Saturday January 30 Maryland’s team won the Pacific Rounds of the International Environmental Moot Court Competition held at Chapman University in Orange, California. The team of Molly Knoll, April Morton, and William Tilburg won all three of their preliminary rounds against teams from Southwestern, Hastings, and the University of Kansas and then defeated Hastings in the finals. The team is coached by David Mandell and Karla Schaffer who teach Maryland’s Environmental Advocacy course. They now will advance to the international finals in March at Stetson University School of Law where they will compete against the winners of regional finals from all over the world. Maryland’s team competed in the Pacific Rounds because Maryland is hosting the Atlantic Rounds of the North American Finals next weekend.
On Wednesday students in my Global Environmental Law seminar presented five proposals of environmental law problems they developed for use in the Jordanian National Moot Court Competition. As mentioned last month, this competition will use an environmental law problem for the first time in order to increase interest in the teaching of environmental law in Jordanian law schools. Recognizing that environmental problems do not easily translate from one country to another, the students put a lot of effort into developing problems that would be particularly relevant to Jordan.