I posted this on my parallel blog at www.globalenvironmentallaw.com on May 4th. I was unable to post on blogspot because I was in mainland China where the site is blocked. Here is the post: I have been in China during the last week. I left D.C. last Sunday, arriving in Beijing on Monday afternoon. On Monday night I had a wonderful dinner in downtown Beijing with my former student Huang Jing and her new husband. I then spent three days in Hong Kong. It is always refreshing to read the Hong Kong press, which is not subject to the same censorship as the mainland media. A dock workers’s strike in Hong Kong and Wednesday’s May 1 celebration of International Labor Day, drew considerable commentary about the abysmal state of worker’s rights in Hong Kong.
Tom Holland, a columnist for the South China Morning Post wrote a column challenging recent reports by Australia’s Climate Commission and the Pew Charitable Trusts that had lauded China as a green energy leader. Holland does not dispute that China now has 152 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity, more than the U.S.’s 133 gigawatts and the EU’s 128 gigawatts. But, he notes, China’s emissions of greenhouse gases are “climbing at a truly spectacular rate.” Tom Holland, China a Green Leader? Don’t Make Me Laugh, South China Morning Post, May 1, 2013, at B8. In 2011 China’s carbon dioxide emissions rose by 820 million tons, more than total emissions that year by Germany and Romania combined. Holland notes that during the first three months of 2013, coal-fired power plants were the source of 81% of China’s electricity generation, followed by hydropower (11%), natural gas (4%), wind energy (2%) and nuclear (2%).
The reason for my trip to China is to present a paper on “The Role of Civil Society in Environmental Governance in the United States and China” at a conference on comparative environmental governance at the University of Nanjing. I have co-authored the paper with Professor Zhao Huiyu from Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Law. Civil society in China has been very active in protesting environmental conditions and opposing the siting of chemical plants. The Hong Kong press reported that provincial authorities in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, have temporarily halted a controversial $6 billion PetroChina chemical plant project in Pengzhou because of concerns over its proximity to an earthquake fault. On April 25 a 33-year old Chinese woman posted on a microblog a call for demonstration on April 27 to oppose the plant, a protest she said had been approved by the authorities. The following day she was arrested by local authorities and her blog post was removed, generating considerable public anger. Patrick Boehler, Chengdu Halts Plant Work Amid Quake Fears, South China Morning Post, May 1, 2013, at A6.
While waiting to fly to Shanghai on May 3 I was able to watch part of the Washington Nationals/Atlanta Braves baseball game in high definition on my laptop due to the superb free wifi in the Hong Kong airport. On Friday night I had dinner in Shanghai with my co-author Professor Zhao, who is one of the very top environmental law scholars in China. Tomorrow we will be traveling by train to Nanjing for the conference.
Other environmental news items from China include the following. The Guangzhou Daily reported that beginning next month water quality reports for 50 rivers in China will be posted online on a monthly basis. Guangzhou officials also announced plans to build three waste treatment facilities to enable the city to treat 94 percent of its sewage. A construction site in the Pudong area of Shanghai is under investigation for illegally discharging polluted wastewater into a stream that turned the stream black and resulted in a fish kill. Residents posted pictures of the polluted water online, which helped spur the investigation. The Fujian provincial government announced that it had ordered 392 mineral mines to shut down by 2015 because of safety and environmental concerns. Not all of the mines were not found to be violating existing regulations, but they all were deemed to be using substandard safety technology and some were found to be causing pollution of soil and rivers.
In a financial report last week BP revealed that as of March 6 it was facing 2,200 lawsuits over its 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As the deadline for avoiding a three-year statute of limitations approaches, BP expects to face more lawsuits. BP disclosed that it increased the amount it set aside to pay for claims by private parties pursuant to a settlement it reached last year from $7.8 billion to $8.2 billion. Guy Chazan, BP Hit by Flood of Fresh Lawsuits As Gulf Disaster Claims Deadline Nears, Financial Times, May 1, 2013, at 11. The oil services company Halliburton had revealed the previous week that it increased its reserve to settle Deepwater Horizon claims from $363 million to $1 billion, perhaps a reflection that it has not fared well in the trial that commenced in federal court in New Orleans in February.
A report published last week by the group Climate Central estimates that Hurricane Sandy resulted in nearly 11 billion gallons of raw sewage being released into U.S. waters in October 2012. Storm surges, heavy rain, and electrical outages caused by the storm overwhelmed sewage collection and treatment systems, causing the releases. The report illustrates a serious infrastructure problem. As sea levels rise due to climate change, sewage systems in coastal areas are at increasing risk of being overwhelmed by storms. A copy of the report, Sewage Overflows from Hurricane Sandy, is available online at: http://www.climatecentral.org/pdfs/Sewage.pdf
Tesla now has a dealership in Hong Kong and there are a fair number of electric vehicle charging stations in the city. I will be taking delivery of my all-electric Tesla car on May 9, the day after
I return from China.