Ma Jun Receives Prince Claus Award

Ma Jun Receives Prince Claus Award
Chinese environmentalist Ma Jun receives the Prince Claus Award at the Dutch Royal Palace in Amsterdam on Dec. 6, 2017

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

Thursday, June 19, 2014

June 16 Blog Post from China

I've just returned from three weeks in China where Blogspot is blocked by the government's "Great Firewall." Here is the blog post I made on my parallel blog at:

I’m in the Beijing airport right now after a nearly three-week trip to China to serve as a visiting scholar at Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Law.  During the past week I made four presentations at four different Chinese institutions.  On Tuesday June 10 I spoke about “The Evolution of Environmental Law” at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences’s Center of Eco-Economics and Sustainable Development.  Following my lecture we had a lively discussion about why it has been so difficult for China to enforce its environmental laws.  

On Wednesday June 11 I took the high-speed train from Shanghai to Jinan where I gave an evening lecture on “Environmental Law in an Era of Globalization” at the Shandong University School of Law, Jinan, China, June 11, 2014.  Shandong University is where I taught a short course on environmental law in May 2012.  Shandong University Professor Zhang Shijun, who spent a year as a visiting environmental law scholar at Maryland hosted my visit. 

On Thursday afternoon June 12 I spoke to nearly 300 students at the Shandong University of Political Science and Law in Jinan.  The topic of my lecture was “Using Criminal Sanctions to Enforce Environmental Law.”  China has started doing more criminal enforcement of its environmental laws.  A week ago Professor Zhao Huiyu of Shanghai Jiaotong University attended a court proceeding involving the prosecution of a businessman for dumping chemicals.  Unfortunately, it is very difficult for foreigners to attend Chinese court proceedings so I was unable to accompany her.  It was a real privilege on Thursday afternoon to get to spend two hours with young Chinese students engaging in a fascinating discussion about the future of environmental law and the role of criminal sanctions in its enforcement.  I used a serious of examples of U.S. cases where I asked the audience to vote on whether or not the polluter should be prosecuted criminally.

On Friday June 13 Professor Zhao and I traveled about an hour and a half north of Shanghai to the Shanghai Chongming Dongtan National Nature Reserve.  The purpose of the trip was for local and regional environmental professionals to assess whether or not new legislation should be proposed to protect the amazing wetlands from the impact of future development.  Prior to the meeting the director of the reserve took Professor Zhao and I on an hour-long hike through the reserve.  He explained that the wetlands held in the reserve are part of a crucial flight path for birds migrating between Australia/New Zealand and northern Siberia/Alaska.  Approximately 290 different species of migratory birds can be found in the reserve.  Following the hike we participated in a conference with a group of Chinese environmental professors.  I spoke to the group on how wetlands are protected in the United States under U.S. environmental law.  The meeting ended with the group   drafting a resolution calling for additional legal protection of the Dongtan Reserve followed by a traditional Chinese banquet.

Last week we received word that the book of edited papers prepared for the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law’s “Global Environmental Law at a Crossroads” Colloquium has been published by Edward Elgar Publishers in London.  I co-edited the book with Professor Jolene Lin of the University of Hong Kong and William Piermattei, the Managing Director of our Environmental Law Program at Maryland.  There will be a book launch event celebrating publication of the book at the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium in Tarragona, Spain on July 3.

Today there are articles in the Shanghai Post and the China Daily noting how difficult it is to win the “license lottery” that enables one to buy a new car in those cities.  Both cities are trying to limit traffic congestion by strictly regulating the number of new cars on the road.  In Beijing the odds of winning the lottery are only 2.2 percent.  The papers also note that the Chinese government shut down a chemical plant in Hunan Province after discovering very high levels of lead in the blood of children living near the plant.  

I am about to board the plane to return to the U.S.  I am looking forward to getting back home, albeit briefly, before leaving with my son for the World Cup in Brazil on Thursday. I am enormously grateful to Professor Zhao Huiyu for her incredible hospitality during my time at Shanghai Jiaotong University.

June 7 Blog Post from China

I just returned from three weeks in China where Blogspot is blocked by the Great Firewall.  Here is the June 7 blog post I made on my parallel blog at:

On June 4 the Chinese government released its 2013 China Environmental Situation Report.  It reported that only 3 of the 74 major cities subject to tougher air pollution standards adopted last fall met the goals for reducing air pollution.  Li Ganjie, vice minister for environmental protection said that despite some improvements in environmental protection, air quality in cities remains a “serious” problem and the outlook for water quality is “not optimistic.” Groundwater quality was found to be poor or extremely poor at almost 60 percent of 4,778 groundwater monitoring sites.  Zhou Shengxian, minister for environmental protection noted that sulfur dioxide emissions declined by 3.5 percent in 2013 and chemical oxgen demand was reduced by 2.9 percent. He stressed the need to improve the legal system to address air, water, and soil pollution.  While the report covered the year 2013, Li stressed that the intensity of small particulate pollution (PM2.5) had declined by 10.3 percent during the first three months of 2014. Zheng Xin, Big Cities Struggle to Meet Pollution Standards, China Daily, June 5, 2014, at 1.  Noting that the Ministry of Environmental Protection describes the overall environmental situation as “grim” an editorial in the China Daily stated: “With all the input, of both pledges and resources, into an environmental cleanup, what this country achieved in 2013 appears less than impressive. . . . [W]e are now swallowing the bitter fruit of the poisonous but prevalent development philosophy that shouted ‘pollute first, address it later.’” Editorial, Grim Environment Challenge, China Daily, June 5, 2014, at 8.

World Environment Day was celebrated on June 5.  The theme for this year’s celebration, selected by the United Nations, was “Small Islands and Climate Change” and the official slogan was “Raise your voice, not the sea level.”  Tony de Brum, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, reports that sea level rise has washed away the coffins of at least 26 Japanese soldiers who had been buried on a remote island.  

The Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century released a report on June 4 finding that global investment in renewable energy fell sharply in 2013.  European investment in renewable energy fell by 44 percent compared to 2012 while investment in renewables by developing countries declined by 14 percent.  China’s investment of $56.3 billion in renewables accounted for 61 percent of the developing country total.  In 2013 China for the first time had more new renewable power capacity come on line than new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity.  

The United Nations reported this week on the results of the Fifth Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Caspian Sea.  The parties to the Convention, which is known as the Tehran Convention, include Azerbaijan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan.  At COP-5, which was held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, the five nations agreed on a Biodiversity Protocol to protect species such as the Caspian sturgeon and Caspian seal.  Previous protocols to the Convention have dealt with oilo spill response and prevention of land-based pollution.

The Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) announced on June 6 that it had “blacklisted” 259 local companies during the first three months of the year for violating regulations limiting air or water pollution and the dumping of solid wastes.  Thirteen of the firms were ordered to close and 219 were required to change their behavior.  Eighty-four of the 219 firms have complied with these orders.  Zhao Wen, 259 Firms Guilty of Breaking Green Rules, Shanghai Daily June 7, 2014, at 4.

Residents of the Chinese village of Chendongyuan in Gansu Province have been protesting the deterioration of the town’s main road due to heavy traffic from oil company vehicles accessing PetroChina’s Changqing oil field.  As part of these protests 40 village residents blocked access to the oil field on Saturday.  One of the protesters, Wang Caixi, was killed when she was crushed under a truck that was attempting to break the blockade. Li Qian, Oil Field Protester Crushed to Death by Truck, Shanghai Daily, June 7 2014, at 5.

I am still in Shanghai where I will be giving a lecture on Tuesday at the Shanghai Institute of Social Sciences.  On Wednesday I am traveling to Shandong Province where I will deliver two lectures.  I return to the U.S. on June 16.

June 1 Blogpost from China

I just returned from three weeks in China where Blogspot is blocked.  Here is the June 1 post I made on my parallel blog at:

I arrived in Beijing on May 28 and flew to Shanghai on May 29 to start a stint as a high-level visiting foreign expert at Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Law.  China’s severe air pollution problems dominate a lot of public discourse here.  The government seems open to trying just about anything to reduce air pollution.

The State Grid of China announced on May 27 that it will seek private capital to establish a distributed power network for electric vehicle chargers.  This was considered significant because it represented the first time the Grid had opened up to investment of private capital, something that China’s major oil companies had done in January.  The China Association of Automobile Manufacturers estimates that 14,000 electric vehicles and 3,300 plug-in hybrids were sold in China in 2013. Du Juan, Power Supplier Will Seek Private Capital, China Daily, May 28, 2014. 

The Russian power company Inter RAO is considering building the world’s largest coal-fired power plant in the Russian far east to supply electricity to China.  Boris Kovalchuk, the CEO of the power supplier, said that it was considering building an 8GW power plant near the Erkovetskya coal deposit in Russia’s far east. The world’s largest coal-fireed power plant today is the 5.5GW Taichung plant in Taiwan.  Kovalchuk noted that China needs more electricity and that Chinese officials would like it to come from plants outside the country in order to reduce Chinese air pollution. Reuters, Russian Firm Studying World’s Largest Coal-Fired Power Plant to Supply China, May 26, 2014.

Yesterday’s South China Post had a front page story on the discovery that the particulate pollution in China’s air contains extraordinarily high levels of toxic metals. Stephen Chen, Hazardous Levels of Trace Metals in China’s Air, South China Morning Post, May 31, 2013, at 1. In a study published in Environmental Science and Technology last year, Li Weijun, a professor of environmental science at Shandong University, found 200-250 microgramsof zinc per litre and levels of iron of 105 micrograms per litre in clouds on two Chinese mountains.  These levels are 10 to 20 times greater than levels of metals in U.S. particulate pollution.

China is making changes to encourage local governments to crack down on air pollution.  On May 26 Zhai Qing, China’s vice-minister for environmental protection announced that for the first time the Communist Party’s Organization Department, which decides on the promotion of local officials, and top leaders of the State Council will evaluate local officials based on how well they do in meeting goals for reducing air pollution in 338 cities pursuant to the Airborne Pollution Control Action Plan that was unveiled last September.  This Plan calls for reductions of between 25% and 10% in levels of PM2.5 in various areas of China during the period 2013-2017.  The central government also pledged to give more financial support to regions that reduce air pollution, while reducing support to regions that fail to achieve the goals.  Wu Wencong, Appraisal to Facilitate Clean Air Endeavor, China Daily, May 29, 2014, at 3.

A comprehensive survey of Chinese wetlands begun in January 2010 has concluded that Tibet has more than 38,000 wetlands.  China’s largest wetland area is the Sanjiang Plain Nature Reserve in Heilongjiang province, which covers more than 10 million hectares.  About two-thirds of Tibetan wetlands currently are in conservation areas and by 2020 Tibet will be required to preserve at least 6.4 million hectares of wetland areas.  Hu Yongqi & Da Qiong, Tibet Ranks Second in Wetland Preservation, China Daily, May 29, 2014, at 7.

On May 30 Shanghai Jiaotong Professor Zhao Huiyu and I had dinner with Sushu Wang, a Maryland law student who is spending the summer working as an intern with the Shanghai Environmental Protection Board (EPB).  Sushu was born in Nanjing, but moved with her family to the U.S. when she was two years old.  She described how the Shanghai EPB responds to complaints about pollution and noted that she has been able to accompany EPB staff as they serve papers on polluters.

On May 31 Professor Zhao and I accompanied a group of students participating in the University of Santa Clara Law School’s summer program in China on a trip to the ancient Chinese city of Xitang.  Xitang, which is located about 80 minutes southeast of Shanghai, is a city of canals that has become a major tourist attraction, though we appeared to be among the few foreign tourists there on Saturday.  Xitang has lots of well-preserved buildings and bridges dating from the 14th through the 19th centuries.  

I am quoted in today’s Washington Post in a column by Robert McCartney criticizing Midwestern attorneys general for filing briefs supporting the Farm Bureau’s appeal of a decision upholding the EPA’s total maximum daily loadings (TMDL) plan for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. Robert McCartney, Distant States Seek to Disrupt Our Region’s Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plan, Washington Post, June 1, 2014. McCartney called me in Shanghai to interview me for the article. I will be in China until June 16 giving a series of lectures in both Shanghai and in Shandong Province.