Representatives from more than 100 countries who are parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer met in Paris from November17- 21, 2014 for their 26th Meeting of the Parties (MOP). The meetings focused largely on efforts to expand the Protocol to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), substances that are potent greenhouse gases. Because many substances that deplete the ozone layer also are greenhouse gases, the Montreal Protocol, adopted in 1987, actually has been responsible for reducing more GHG emissions than the Kyoto Protocol. Most countries now agree that it would be wise to use the Montreal Protocol to phase out HFCs. Although China and India previously had been obstacles to reaching agreement on this issue, they have agreed to support such an initiative, in part due to personal diplomacy by President Obama in meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the last 18 months. David Doniger, director of NRDC’s climate program who attended the Paris meetings, reports that the delegation from Saudi Arabia was the largest obstacle to reaching an agreement, perhaps as part of a larger strategy to stall global climate negotiations (http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/ddoniger/countries_accelerate_talks_on.html). Agreement was reached in Paris to accelerate the negotiations on HFCs in hopes that a final agrement can be reached at MOP-27 next November, just prior to the crucial climate talks scheduled for Paris in December 2015.
On November 25 the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it had agreed to review the D.C. Circuit’s decision upholding EPA’s regulation of mercury and air toxics (MATS) from power plants as hazardous air pollutants under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act. The decision was not a surprise because the Court announced on November 17 that it had relisted the petitions for a second conference after considering them at conference on November 14. I had learned from good authority that the Court has a new, unannounced rule that it ordinarily will not grant cert until it has considered a petition at more than one conference of the Justices. This rule apparently is a response to the Court discovering in the past that some cases they agreed to review did not actually present the questions the Justices initially thought they did. Although some observers expressed surprise when the Supreme Court announced that it had relisted the petitions for a second conference, it confirmed for me that the Court was likely to review them. The Court granted review on a question it framed as: “Whether the Environmental Protection Agency unreasonably refused to consider costs in determining whether it is appropriate to regulate hazardous air pollutants emitted by electric utilities.” The consolidated cases are Michigan v. EPA, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA and National Mining Association v. EPA. At the two Supreme Court preview programs ELI President John Cruden and I presented last month, we predicted that these were the environmental cases the Court was most likely to take, though I hoped the Court would deny review. Some utility executives interviewed by the press indicated that they may suspend their orders for new pollution control equipment pending the Court’s decision in the case.
On November 20 and 21 I visited Macalester College’s Environmental Studies Program along with my former colleague Bruce Rich, former director of international programs for the Environmental Defense Fund. I introduced Bruce at a campus-wide lecture on November 20 and then attended a program where he spoke at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. Both of Bruce’s lectures focused on the environmental consequences of World Bank policy. On November 21 I participated in a luncheon of Macalester students interested in applying for a summer Global Environmental Justice fellowship. In the afternoon I gave a lecture on climate change and the new U.S./China agreement to an environmental studies class at Macalester. I continue to be really impressed with Macalester’s interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Program and the quality of the students who have enrolled in it.
I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. In a few hours I am leaving for China, my fourth trip of the year to that country. I will be completing my stint as a high-level visiting foreign expert at Shanghai Jiaotong University. On December 3 I am scheduled to give a campus-wide lecture on “Is Divided Government Dysfunctional?” As is usual during my China trips, I do not expect to be able to post blog entries on this website because Blogspot is blocked by China's Great Firewall. I will be blogging on my parallel blog at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com. I will be returning to the U.S. on December 20.