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

Monday, July 15, 2013

Return from New Zealand, Environmental Issues Down Under (by Bob Percival)

My wife Barbara and I arrived home from our New Zealand vacation at 3:20AM this morning.  I flew on United from Auckland via Sydney, while Barbara had a more circuitous route on Singapore Air through Singapore and Seoul as part of a ticket purchased with airline miles.  We met up at the San Francisco Airport and I agreed to let her have my first class seat on the flight from San Francisco to Dulles, which was delayed for nearly two hours.  Barbara ended up sitting on the plane next to Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker and now Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.  Barbara’s late grandfather had briefly been a fellow member of the Maryland delegation in Congress with Pelosi’s father Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr. who later became mayor of Baltimore.

We had the best vacation ever exploring New Zealand for two weeks after the end of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium at Waikato University.  We started in the north on Waiheke Island near Auckland and drove south as far as Christchurch on the South Island.  We went winetasting at vineyards in six different wine regions of New Zealand and had some really memorable meals.  As mentioned last week, we hiked part of the Queen Charlotte Track with ferries depositing us on one part and picking us up on another.  Last Tuesday we spent an afternoon whale watching off the east coast of the South Island near Kaikura.  We saw three sperm whales and visited a sea lion colony.  On Thursday we took one of the most spectacular train rides in the world - the TraNZalpine railway from Christchurch to Greymouth.  It crosses New Zealand’s beautiful Southern Alps from the east coast to the west coast of the South Island in the morning and then returns in the afternoon.  

Before flying back to Auckland on Friday we toured the International Antarctic Center across the street from the offices of the U.S. Antarctica Program adjoining the Christchurch Airport.  This is the supply center for the U.S. bases in Antarctica.  The museum is fascinating with some terrific films of Antarctica and visitors can take a ride on a Hagglund vehicle widely used for exploration on the ice.  

Traveling in New Zealand and spending a day in Sydney on my return, I was  struck by the variety of environmental issues that are being debated by the public.  The town of Dunedin on the South Island is struggling to enforce ordinances designed to reduce smoke pollution by requiring homeowners to replace wood stoves with cleaner burning units.  Despite offering subsidies to finance the switch there has been widespread noncompliance so government officials are threatening to levy heavy fines.  In Australia the big environmental news was new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s announcement that the government would scrap the politically controversial carbon tax and replace it with a cap-and-trade program to be phased in a year earlier than previously contemplated.   Rudd promptly was accused by the conservative opposition (oddly called the Liberal Party) of being a flip-flopper.  Yet most of the public seems to take climate change seriously in light of the record heat during the summer and the debate has centered on the best approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

Australian environmental groups split over a plan to protect forests in Tasmania with some groups arguing that the plan does not go far enough to preserve forests.  Hydraulic fracturing also is becoming a big issue in Australia.  Since the government in Australia generally owns the subsurface resources under private property, the political dynamics of the fracking issue may be altered in ways that could foster some interesting comparative studies.  A common theme running through many of the environmental debates down under is that individuals offer more resistance to environmental measures that visibly cost them, such as a carbon tax or the need to scrap old wood stoves, and they are less enthusiastic about fracking when most of the benefits will go to the government while most of the burdens are put on their surface landholdings.

This was my first trip to New Zealand, the 82nd country I have visited.  I would love to return during New Zealand’s summer and visit the southern part of the South Island, including Milford Sound, when the weather is better. I took some great photos on the trip that I will be posting in the photo section of my parallel website at http://www.globalenvironmentallaw.com in the next few days.

No comments: