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, September 15, 2014

Chile Carbon Tax Enacted (Updated), Peruvian Environmentalist Murdered, U.S. Sanctions Target Exxon Drilling in Russian Arctic, Chinese Incinerator Protests (by Bob Percival)

Last week Chile apparently became the first country in South America to adopt a carbon tax when the Chilean Congress gave final approval to President Michelle Bachelet’s comprehensive tax reform program.  The tax, which is to take effect in 2017, will apply to thermal power generation stations that generate more than 50MW of electricity.  The tax package also applies hefty fees to imports of polluting diesel vehicles.  Some media reported that last May, Michael A. Hammer, the U.S. Ambassador to Chile, had criticized the proposed carbon tax as a measure that would discourage foreign investment in Chile.  See http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/chile/140513/chile-carbon-tax. and “Carbon Tax Bill Gains in Chile to Business’s Dismay,” EcoAmerica, August 2014, at 9.   His remarks came only two months after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry personally had directed all U.S. heads of mission to elevate climate change issues to a major priority.  See http://blogs.state.gov/stories/2014/03/07/we-need-elevate-environment-everything-we-do


While it would be difficult to understand why the chief representative of the U.S. in Chile would try to undermine the adoption of one of the most progressive environmental measures in the world, the embassy maintains that the ambassador did not in fact criticize the carbon tax.  Gabrielle Guimond, press attache at the U.S. Embassy in Santiago sent me the following email on September 16: “Ambassador Hammer has not made any public comments on the carbon tax, nor has he criticized the Chilean government on the carbon tax. The carbon tax question, as well as the larger tax reform is an internal issue for the Government of Chile and the Chilean people to decide.”  

It is most gratifying to see the U.S. take this position. In a followup email on September 17, the press attache states: It seems the authors of the globalpost.com article are referring to a speech the Ambassador gave to the U.S.-Chilean Chamber of Commerce in Santiago on May 6, 2014. To add clarity, the full quote from the Ambassador’s speech is as follows, ‘As you know well, the new Administration is considering several changes. In order to continue contributing to the economy and providing value to society, U.S. businesses have the same requirements as any other business – political and economic stability, and clear rules.  When there are changes it is important to inquire with all stakeholders and, at the same time, make timely decisions in order for businesses to plan and adapt properly. At the Embassy we seek to promote the development of U.S. businesses in Chile, ensuring equal treatment as all other businesses, foreign and Chilean.’ The Ambassador did not, as has been incorrectly asserted, make any comments relating to the carbon tax."

Last week it was revealed that Peruvian environmental activist Edwin Chota, who had campaigned against illegal logging, has been murdered, along with three other men, including Chota’s deputy Jorge Rios.  Illegal loggers are suspected of the murders, which occurred in a remote region of Peru near the Brazilian border.  For years Chota had campaigned for members of indigenous communities to receive title to the lands where they lived and worked.  Chota long had received death threats from illegal loggers who he regularly confronted with nothing more than a machete even though they had firearms.  Some environmentalists are arguing that this horrendous tragedy could have been prevented if the Peruvian government had responded to Chota’s pleas to crack down on the nefarious activities of the loggers.

On September 12 the United States and the European Union significantly strengthened sanctions against Russia in response to Russia’s continuing incursion into Ukraine.  Peter Baker & Andrew Higgins, New Round of Sanctions Targets Energy in Russia, New York Times, Sept. 13, 2014, at A4. The new sanctions are expected to put the brakes on ExxonMobil’s joint venture with Russian oil company Rossneft to develop offshore oil resources in the Kara Sea.  American officials anticipate that the American oil company’s lawyers may try to find creative ways to evade the sanctions, but they confirmed that the U.S. “government’s intention was to shut down the company’s operations in the Kara Sea.” Stanley Reed & Clifford Krauss, New Sanctions to Stall Exxon’s Arctic Oil Plans, New York Times, Sept. 13, 2014, at B1.  The Russian government has been seeking foreign help to develop to tap offshore oil resources in the Arctic as its onshore production declines.

Residents in Boluo County in China’s southern Guangdong Province took to the streets to protest government plans to build a garbage incinerator.  Dozens of demonstrators were arrested after they defied government efforts to dissuade them from protesting.  The government estimated that a thousand residents had joined the protests, while the protesters asserted that the number was an order of magnitude greater.  Chris Buckley, In Southern China, Residents Wary of the Government Protest a Plan to Burn Waste, N.Y. Times, Sept. 15, 2014, at A9. This is the latest in a series of incidents where the Chinese public has distrusted government assurances that locally undesirable land uses would not expose them to greater environmental risks.

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