At a meeting in Copenhagen the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its final synthesis report describing the conclusions of the various reports generated by its Fifth Assessment of the problems of global warming and climate change. In a press release issued today, the IPCC stated “human influence on the climate system is clear and growing with impacts observed on all continents.” The IPCC concluded that “if left unchecked, climate change will increase the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.” More than 830 scientists from 80 countries played significant roles in the development of the Fifth Assessment reports. They reviewed more than 30,000 scientific papers to produce the most comprehensive assessment of climate change ever issued. Thomas Stocker, co-chair of IPCC Working Group I, notes that “the assessment finds that atmosphere and oceans have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, sea level has risen and the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased to a level unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years.” The synthesis report concludes that “stringent mitigation activities can ensure that the impacts of climate change remain within a manageable range.”
On October 21 I attended the Environmental Law Institute’s annual dinner in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of environmental lawyers showed up, filling the ballroom of the Shoreham Hotel. ELI President John Cruden presented the Institute’s annual award to Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board, and the state of California for their leadership in developing innovative environmental protection measures. California Representative Henry Waxman, who is retiring from Congress, gave a wonderful talk that touched on the history of California’s role as an environmental pioneer. It was great to see so many of my former students at the event and to get to introduce some of them to Mary Nichols.
On October 23 leaders of 28 European Union countries agreed to reduce EU emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 40 percent from 1990 levels by the year 2030. This represented the first commitment by a major bloc of countries in advance of the crucial summit to be held in Paris at the end of next year to adopt a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. The EU agreed on a goal of increasing the percentage of energy generated by renewable sources to 27 percent and on a largely hortatory goal of improving the energy efficiency of its economies by 27 percent. Sweden and Germany reportedly had sought more ambitious targets, but were pressured by Poland and other eastern EU countries to soften them.
On October 23 the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party approved its much-anticipated rule of law document. The report states that the Party “must comprehensively move ruling the country according to the law forward” in order to develop “Socialism with Chinese characteristics,” to “realize the modernization of the national governing system and governing ability” and to promote “the people’s welfare, peace and health.” Throught the report emphasis is placed on the overriding importance of maintaining the Communist Party’s leadership of China. In a section entitled “Strengthen Legislation in Focus Areas” one paragraph advocates strengthening environmental protection as follows: “Use strict legal structures to protect the ecological environment, accelerate the establishment of ecological civilization law structures to effectively restrain exploitative behaviour and stimulate green development, recycling development and low-carbon development, strengthen the legal liability of producers for environmental protection, substantially raise the costs of violating the law. Build and complete legal structures for property rights over natural assets, perfect legal structures in the area of State land exploitation and protection, formulate and perfect laws and regulations for ecological compensation, the prevention of soil, water and air pollution and the protection of the maritime ecological environment, to stimulate the construction of an ecological civilization.”
On October 24 I participated in a conference at the University of Pennsylvania Law School on the use of films in legal advocacy. The conference was organized by Professor Regina Austin, Director of the Program on Documentaries & the Law at Penn, and Professor Daniel Kiel from the University of Memphis School of Law. The conference was attended by approximately twenty professors and several students from fifteen schools including Penn, Maryland, Yale, Harvard, Georgetown, Miami, Chicago-Kent, Kentucky, Florida A & M, New York Law School and others. I spoke on the opening panel and described how students in my Environmental Law class have made films each year since 2002. Over the years my students have made approximately 100 films; 70 are on display online at: http://digitalcommons.law.umaryland.edu/envirofilms/. It was interesting to see the different ways in which film is being used in law school classes. The participants expressed interest in making the event an annual gathering and possibly hosting a law student film festival in the future.
On October 28 I attended the 25th anniversary celebration of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) at the U.S. Botanical Gardens. At the event CIEL presented its International Environmental Award to Professor Philip Allott of Trinity College, Cambridge, and its Frederick R. Anderson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Addressing Climate Change to former NASA scientist James Hansen. It was great at the event to get a chance to catch up with Philippine environmentalist Tony Oposa, who is spending the fall semester visiting at Pace University Law School and who will be visiting at the University of Hawaii Law School next spring.
On October 29 I spoke to a group of environmental official from Yunnan Province in China who are participating in the Kunming Institute of Environmental Science Executive Education program sponsored by the Maryland China Initiative at the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP). I gave a total of four hours of lectures on U.S. environmental problems and the development of U.S. environmental law. UMCP’s Maryland China Initiative is one of only two entities in the U.S. officially approved by China’s State Council to held train Chinese officials (the other is the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University).