Last week China announced that it will ban the import and sale of 100-watt and higher incandescent light bulbs beginning on October 1, 2012. The ban will be extended to 60-watt bulbs on October 1, 2014 and to 15-watt and higher bulbs on October 1, 2016. With this move China joins the EU and the United States in phasing out these notoriously inefficient light bulbs that waste most of their energy giving off heat rather than light.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has asked Chinese authorities for help in implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act. The law, which was enacted in January 2011, requires U.S. importers of food to verify through their suppliers the safety of their imports. The FDA is seeking greater information sharing with China and other countries that export food to the U.S. The U.S. actually exports more agricultural products to China than China exports to the U.S., but enforcement of Chinese food safety laws has been notoriously weak, as Li Tairan, director of food safety at China’s Ministry of Health confirmed at a food safety conference on November 2. Laurie Burkitt, FDA Seeks Beijing’s Help Over Food Safety, Wall St. J., Nov. 4, 2011, at A8.
Last week the governing council of the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) urged the European Union to drop its plan to include airlines flying to or from EU countries in its cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions. A total of 26 countries, including the U.S., China, Russia, and India had lobbied for the declaration, which argues that the ICAO is the best forum for resolving such issues. EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard criticized these countries for focusing solely on what not to do to reduce GHG emissions from the airline sector. The EU regulations will go into effect on January 1, 2013. Meanwhile the U.S. House of Representatives’ vote to prohibit U.S. airlines from participating in the EU’s cap-and-trade program has received a lot of attention, but for now it stands virtually no chance of being adopted by the full Congress. A report issued by Bloomberg News Energy Finance estimates that the cost to the airlines of participating in the EU program would be less than one-quarter of one percent of revenue from the routes subject to it in 2012 and about one-half of one percent in 2020. Pilita Clark, Nations Step Up Fight Over Air Carbon Permits, Financial Times, Oct. 30, 2011.
On Nov. 2 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit announced that it will hear two days of oral argument on February 28 & 29, 2012 on the consolidated legal challenges to EPA’s regulations governing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The panel hearing the case will be Judges Sentelle, Rogers, and Tatel. Judge Sentelle is a severe critic of environmental regulation, but Judges Rogers and Tatel are much more supportive. On November 3, I participated in a dinner of “Distinguished Environmental Advocates” at Bistro Bis in Washington, D.C. The dinner was sponsored by ABA’s Section on Environment, Energy & Resources and the Environmental Law Institute. George Frampton addressed the group and argued that the Fukushima Daiichi accident would not have a gret impact on the demand for nuclear power because the Chinese and Russian governments still are committed to building new nuclear power plants. I expressed disagreement with this view, noting that public opinion in Japan, Germany and China is now distinctly anti-nuclear due to the accident. At the dinner I asked several of the major figures in the environmental bar for their predictions concerning the fate of the legal challenges to EPA’s regulation of GHG emissions. Virtually everyone agreed that EPA’s endangerment finding would be upheld aby the D.C> Circuit. Many thought EPA would beat back all of the legal challenges to its regulation of GHG emissions. Surprinsgly, this group even included some prominent industry lawyers. However, a few others, including a prominent supporter of EPA, believed that EPA’s tailoring rule would be struck down.
I visited Goucher College on November 1 to give a lecture on the Law of the Sea to an environmental studies class. It is really heartening to see how many colleges and universities are expanding their environmental offerings at the undergraduate level.