10th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium

10th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium
More than 250 environmental experts from 35 countries gather at the University of Maryland for the 10th Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law in July 2012

March 2013 Environmental Field Trip to Israel

March 2013 Environmental Field Trip to Israel
Maryland students vist Israel's first solar power plant in the Negev desert as part of a spring break field trip to study environmental issues in the Middle East

Workshop with All China Environment Federation

Workshop with All China Environment Federation
Participants in March 12 Workshop with All China Environment Federation in Beijing

Winners of Jordanian National Moot Court Competition

Winners of Jordanian National Moot Court Competition
Jordanian Justice Minister Aymen Odah presents trophy to Noura Saleh & Niveen Abdel Rahman from Al Al Bait University along with US AID Mission Director Jay Knott & ABA's Maha Shomali

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Comparative Disclosure Study, IPCC Review & Reducing Port Pollution

On Wednesday February 24, Jonathan Nwagbaraocha of Enhesa was a guest speaker in my Global Environmental Law seminar. He presented a paper on “Global Pollutant and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting” that he had prepared as part of his work advising companies on how to comply with global environmental standards. A copy of the paper is available on my parallel website at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com. Jonathan, who is a 2005 graduate of Maryland’s Environmental Law Program, found that several countries have adopted disclosure requirements similar to the Toxics Release Inventory established in the U.S. by the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (ECRA). The European Union’s disclosure requirements are among the most extensive. The paper also tracks the growth of disclosure requirements for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has announced that it will establish an independent committee of experts to review the panel’s procedures. Appointment of the independent panel is a response to criticism of mistakes in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment report, including an estimate that glaciers in the Himalayas could disappear in 2035 instead of 2350, and the release of stolen emails from University of East Anglia climate researchers. While the details of how the independent panel will be selected will not be available until next month, the IPCC noted that it continues to “stand firmly behind the rigour and robustness of the 4th Assessment Report’s conclusions” which “are based on an overwhelming body of evidence from thousands of peer-reviewed and independent scientific studies.”

Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham reportedly is proposing a targeted carbon tax as an alternative to the cap and trade program for controlling GHG emissions that is included in the Maxman-Markey bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last spring. Noting that few college students have any doubt about the reality of climate change, Graham reportedly believes that it is essential that Republicans modify their opposition to efforts to reduce GHG emissions. Thomas L. Friedman, How the G.O.P. Goes Green, New York Times, February 28, 2010.

The Teamsters union has endorsed the use of low-emissions trucks to serve ports in the U.S. in an effort to reduce serious pollution problems there. A coalition of labor groups and environmentalists helped convince the Port of Los Angeles to ban the use of older, high-emission trucks to transport cargo from the port. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the Port of Los Angeles have adopted plans to impose additional charges on those who use older vehicles in order to help provide financial assistance for the purchase of low emission vehicles. Steven Greenhouse, Clearing the Air at American Ports, N.Y. Times, Feb. 26, 2010.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

WHO Visit, 50 New Country Profiles, Cap & Nukes? USCAP Defections (by Bob Percival)

On Monday February 15 I spent the day at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland where I gave a lunchtime talk and had meetings with WHO officials. In my talk on “How Safe Is ‘Safe’? The Emerging Global Law of Environmental Health Protection” I reviewed the history of environmental risk regulation and new developments that are occurring as global environmental law continues to evolve. WHO officials, who have played a major role in improving public health on the planet, appreciate the importance of environmental regulation as a means for preventing harm to public health. In the meetings that I held with them following my talk we discussed some exciting new ways in which we can build more bridges between the environmental law and public health communities. I am grateful for the opportunity to visit WHO and I look forward to a very fruitful collaboration with them.

Students in my Global Environmental Law seminar have been busy this semester. They have just completed 50 new country profiles that have been added to my parallel website at www.globalenvironmentallaw.com. As a result we now have capsule descriptions of the state of environmental law in 112 countries: 28 in Africa, 27 in Europe, 15 in North America and Central America, 13 in Asia, 12 in the Middle East, 11 in South America, and 6 in Oceania.

President Obama this week announced the approval of federal loan guarantees to help finance the develop of two new nuclear powerplants in the U.S. His speech endorsing a revival of the U.S. nuclear power industry as a source of carbon-free energy was seen as an effort to reach out to Senate skeptics of cap-and-trade legislation who support an expansion of the nuclear industry. These include Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina who has come under fire in his own party for expressing an open mind on the need to control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Efforts to expand nuclear power should put more pressure on the administration to come up with a new plan to dispose of high-level radioactive waste after it seemingly has pulled the plug on the Yucca Mountain repository.

This week three prominent companies withdrew from the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a group of businesses and environmental groups that had endorsed legislation to control GHG emissions. The three include the American arm of the British oil company BP PLC, ConocoPhillips, and Caterpillar. The companies stated that their withdrawal from the group did not signal any change in their support for GHG controls, but rather disagreement over the precise form such controls should take. All three had objected to provisions in the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in June.

This week Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), announced that he would resign effective July 1. He described the possibility of reaching a global agreement at the next climate summit in Cancun in December as “a very heavy lift” and criticized governments for not doing more to involve the private sector in the process.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

China Pollution Data, Snow, Macworld & Geneva

Last Tuesday the Chinese government released the results of a two-year national survey of sources of pollution. The data, which include 5.9 million sources of pollution, are to be used to help the government develop a new five-year plan for combating pollution. Zhang Lijun, China’s vice minister of environmental protection, said that the data also may be used to help develop new green taxes to increase incentives to reduce emissions. One of the most striking findings of the data was the large share of water pollution that comes from agricultural runoff. The raw data were not released to the public, but the Chinese government said that wastewater discharges included 30.3 million tons of biochemical oxygen demand, greatly in excess of the 7.4 million tons that it had estimated that Chinese lakes and rivers were capable of absorbing. A New York Time article describing the data and quoting my friend Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, is available online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/10/world/asia/10pollute.html

Snow shut down the Baltimore/Washington area from Monday through Thursday last week. I was fortunate to be able to leave for San Francisco on Monday to attend the annual Macworld conference. One of the exciting new developments this year is interest in adapting casebooks so that they can be used on Apple Computer’s newly announced iPad. The advantages not only would include freeing law students from having to haul around gigantic books, but also immediate access to multimedia materials without having to make separate trips to the internet. In my view, it is just a matter of when and the result may be a revolution in how casebooks are published and distributed.

I am now in Geneva, Switzerland where I will be giving a talk tomorrow at the World Health Organization (WHO) on “How Safe Is ‘Safe’? The Emerging Global Law of Environmental Protection.” I also am visiting two students of mine - Briana Wagner and Kristen Weiss - who are working on internships at WHO on a project to assess how developing countries can improve their laws relating to liability for harm to public health from environmental pollution.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Int'l Environmental Moot Court, ALI-ABA Conference, Jordanian Moot Court

Despite the largest snowfall in Baltimore history, Maryland successfully hosted the North American (Atlantic) Finals of the International Moot Court Competition. Most of Baltimore and the University of Maryland campus shut down on Friday afternoon, but the Law School stayed open so that we could continue the competition. The key to our success was incredible support from our students volunteers as well as alums who pitched in to replace judges from Washington who were forced to cancel due to transportation problems caused by the storm. More than 70 people attended the competition’s annual Fedder lecture on Friday night. Global environmental law scholar Bruce Rich made a spectacular presentation on multilateral development finance and the environment. The competitors and key personnel stayed in hotels close to school and had no trouble resuming the competition early Saturday morning despite the record snowfall that shut down most everything else.

The competition was won by the team from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. The runner-up -- Wake Forest University Law School -- also advances to the International Finals at Stetson University on March 11-14. They will compete against teams from India, Ghana, Kenya, China, Ireland, Ukraine, Brazil, Vietnam, the Philippines, and the University of Maryland team that swept the West Coast competition last weekend (as well as West coast runner-up Hastings). The other teams that made it to the semifinals of the competition were from the University of Wisconsin School of Law and the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. My former students who are on the team from the China University of Political Science and Law told me this week how excited they are about the possibility of competing against my Maryland students. A gallery of photos from the Atlantic Rounds is available online at: http://gallery.me.com/rperci/100645.

On Thursday night I spoke on “Global Environmental Law” at the annual ALI-ABA Conference on Environmental Law in Bethesda, Maryland. I was proud to announce that our student project to draft proposed problems for the Jordanian National Moot Court Competition has been highly successful. One of the five environmental law problems proposed by my students was selected for use in the 2010 Competition and another will be used in 2011. The other three problems will be incorporated into the environmental law materials that the ABA Rule of Law Initiative’s Middle East office is preparing for Jordanian law schools.

On Wednesday visiting Chinese environmental law scholar Professor Zhang Shijun from Shandong University School of Law lectured on the history of Chinese Environmental Law in my Global Environmental Law seminar. He did a terrific job and we had a lively debate about the difficulties China faces in enforcing national environmental standards at the local level.