Last week representatives of the 13 countries where tigers still exist in the wild gathered in St. Petersburg, Russia for an International Tiger Conservation Forum. World Wildlife Fund Director General Jim Leape told the forum that if present trends continue tigers in the wild could become extinct by the year 2022, the next Chinese “year of the tiger.” Three of the nine tiger subspecies -- the Bali, Caspian and Javan tigers -- have become extinct in the last 70 years. Countries represented at the forum pledged renewed cooperation to save the tiger including pledges of an additional $127 million for a Global Tiger Recovery Programme. World Bank President Robert Zoellick announced plans for a $100 million loan to help Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan with tiger conservation efforts.
The conference was hosted by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who declared that the fate of the tiger raises “issues that are critical for the entire planet, humanity and its future.” This represented a rare instance in which Putin has spoken out in favor of conservation efforts, perhaps because the tiger fits with the image of strength he seeks to cultivate. Radhika Lokesh, India’s consul general in St. Petersburg, announced that India would add eight tiger reserves to the 39 it already has and would increase efforts to relocate villages away from tiger habitat.
Delegates from 48 countries have just concluded a two-week conference in Paris to discuss how to protect Atlantic fisheries that are declining due to overfishing. At their 17th annual meeting, members of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) voted to ban the fishing and sale of seven species of sharks, but rejected proposals for deep cuts in the harvesting of bluefin tuna. They agreed to reduce 2011 bluefin quotas by only 4% from 13,500 to 12,900 tons. The decision was widely criticized by environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, which sharply criticized the secrecy that surrounded the negotiations. Environmental NGOs also denounced the group’s failure to adopt strong measures to address noncompliance with quotas.
Last week the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill released two staff working papers and the BP Compensation Fund administered by Ken Feinberg shifted into a new phase. The Commission, appointed by President Obama last May, released a report concluding that in the two decades since the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill and the enactment of the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA90) there had been scant development of oil spill response technology even as oil exploration technology changed rapidly. The report concluded that “industry and government underfunded response R&D, and, as a result, the clean-up technology used” to respond to the spill was “dated and inadequate” (http://www.oilspillcommission.gov/document/responseclean-technology-research-development-and-bp-deepwater-horizon-oil-spill). The second staff report examined efforts to kill the Macondo well, noting that BP had no proven technology for stopping such a deepwater spill and that government agencies were unprepared to oversee the efforts to stop it (http://www.oilspillcommission.gov/document/stopping-spill-five-month-effort-kill-macondo-well). Last week BP’s Gulf Coast Claims Facility, the $20 billion compensation fund run by Ken Feinberg, began accepting claims for final payment of damages from the spill. A copy of the Protocol governing such claims is available online at: http://www.GulfCoastClaimsFacility.com/proto_4 Claimants accepting final payment must “waive any rights the Claimant may have against BP and any other potentially liable parties to assert additional claims, to file an individual legal action, to participate in other legal actions associated with the Spill, or to submit any claim for payment by the National Pollution Funds Center.”
Tomorrow the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP-16) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change begins in Cancun, Mexico. Expectations for a global agreement to control emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) following the 2012 expiration of the Kyoto Protocol have been greatly scaled back as have the number of world leaders who plan to attend the conference. I hope to be able to post guest blog reports from Cancun from Elizabeth Burleson and Alan Miller like they submitted from Copenhagen last year. Due to the failure of Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation the U.S. arrives at the conference even less capable than China of backing up the submission it made in response to the Copenhagen Accord. The U.S. promised a 17% reduction in its GHG emissions from 2005 levels by the year 2020 (only a 4% reduction from Kyoto’s 1990 baseline) based on what the Waxman-Markey legislation would have achieved. China pledged to reduce the carbon intensity of its economy (GHG emissions per unit of gross domestic product) by 40-45% from 2005 levels by 2020, something that is being incorporated into its new Five Year Plan. (A list of Copenhagen Accord submissions is available online at: http://www.usclimatenetwork.org/policy/copenhagen-accord-commitments). Air pollution was terrible in Beijing last week, as a friend who lives there confirmed in an email to me. The U.S. embassy tweeted that it was “crazy bad” as coal-fired heating systems started up to cope with the cold.
On Tuesday November 23 I spoke on global environmental law to an undergraduate class that is part of the multi-disciplinary Environmental Science and Policy Program at the University of Maryland in College Park. I was very impressed with the class, which is taught by Maryland law alum Joanna Goger. The Environmental Science and Policy Program reflects the increasing focus on environmental issues that is occurring across disciplines at many graduate and undergraduate educational institutions.
A gallery of photos from Maryland’s 2010 Environmental Law Winetasting party, described in the November 21 blog post, is now available online at: http://gallery.me.com/rperci#100735. The theme of each year’s event is “wine -- nature’s thanks for preserving the earth.”