On June 18 China launched its first cap-and-trade pilot program for carbon emissions in the city of Shenzen. In the first trade China’s largest oil company PetroChina purchased 10,000 carbon allowances from Shenzen Energy Group, an electric utility, at a price of only $4.90 per metric ton. The cap-and-trade program will be expanded to seven locations in China by the end of 2014, including the cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Chongqing and the provinces of Guangdong and Hubei, before being launched nationwide in 2015. Shanghai is expected to launch its program next month.
Australia’s carbon tax and emissions trading scheme have become major issues in the current electoral campaign there. Opposition leader Tony Abbott acquired his leadership position by reversing his previous support for emissions trading, which he argued would hurt Australia industries who compete with China. Now that China is adopting cap-and-trade, Abbot argues that Australia’s program should be abolished in favor of unspecified “direct action” to control emissions. Abbott’s opposition coalition notes that China’s carbon price is only about $5 per ton compared to Australia’s $23/ton carbon tax. Supporters of Australia’s program note that 94.5% of carbon emissions permits are being distributed free of charge to emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industries, making the effective price of the carbon tax much less than China’s. Despite the opposition’s attack on the carbon tax, there remains bipartisan support for measures to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions by 5% below 2000 levels by 2020. Craig Emerson, Not Pretty Under Abbott’s Fig Leaf, The Australian, June 22-23, 2013, at 20.
Forest fires raging in Sumatra have caused record levels of air pollution in SIngapore. On the night of June 19 Singapore’s air Pollution Standards Index registered 321, an all-time record. The following day the index registered another new record of 371. Anything about 200 is considered hazardous to health. Andrew Tan, the chief executive of Singapore’s National Environmental Agency, traveled to Jakarta to demand “definitive” action by the Indonesian government to control the pollution. Singapore authorities have urged residents to avoid outdoor activities. The Indonesian forestry ministry reportedly is using helicopters to seed the clouds in hope of producing rain to combat the fires. “Indonesia Urged to Clear the Air with Neighbours,” Sydney Morning Herald, June 21, 2013, at 17.
On June 14 a federal district judge in New York ordered three defendants who illegally harvested rock lobsters in South Africa and imported them into the U.S. to pay $29.5 million in restitution to the government of South Africa. The restitution ordered is the largest ever under the Lacey Act, a federal law that prohibits the importation of fish, wildlife or plants taken in violation of the laws of another country. The three reportedly bribed South African fisheries inspectors and submitted false export documents. Ben DiPietro, Record Restitution Order for Lacey Act Violations, Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2013.
Last week Publish What You Pay, a coalition of civil society organizations in Nigeria, urged the Nigerian government to require disclosure of payments made by extractive industries to government officials. Bassey Udo, Nigeria: Emulate European Nations, Canada on Extractive Industries Transparency, Group Tells Nigeria, Premium Times, June 17, 2013. On June 12 the European Parliament voted to require “EU-listed and large privately owned oil, gas, mining and logging companies to publish – country by country and project by project – all payments over €100,000 to governments wherever they operate. This follows agreement between the European Parliament, Member States and Commission after months of negotiations, and brings the EU finally into line with similar extractive industry transparency rules that take effect this year in the U.S. under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act.” The government of Canada also announced that it will adopt similar transparency rules for its exrtractive industries. Publish What You Pay Applauds Historic EU Parliament Transparency Vote as Canada Announces Similar Plans, June 12, 2013.
On Tuesday night I flew from San Francisco to Sydney, Australia en route to New Zealand for the annual Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law. I arrived in Sydney early on Thursday morning. This year the Academy Colloquium, which Maryland hosted last summer, is being held at the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, approximately 75 miles south of Auckland. It will run from June 24-28. Five law students from Maryland will be presenting papers at the Colloquium along with myself and Program Managing Director Bill Piermattei.