The following was posted on my globalenvironmentallaw.com site on Saturday Dec. 6. I was unable to post on this blog because the Chinese government's "great firewall" blocks Blogspot.
I have been in China for the past week where I am finishing my stint as a high-level visiting foreign expert at Shanghai Jiaotong University. I arrived in Beijing on Saturday to some of the worst air pollution I had ever seen in China. It was not even possible to see Terminal 3 from the runway and it only appeared when the plane pulled into the gate. Rains Saturday night combined with extraordinarily high winds (which killed some people in Beijing when materials blew off a building under construction) cleared out the air on Sunday. On Monday I flew to Shanghai where I am staying at the Faculty Club on Shanghai Jiaotong’s Xuhai campus where I have a temporary office at the KoGuan Law School.
On Wednesday Dec. 3 I delivered a lecture on the topic “Is Divided Government Dysfunctional?” The lecture was held at the suburban undergraduate campus of Shanghai Jiaotong. My hosts had asked me as a constitutional law professor to address a broader topic than environmental law in order to appeal to students from several departments. It seemed to work because I had a large audience of students from many disciplines, including several electrical engineering students. In my lecture I reviewed the history of divided government in the U.S. I noted that, counting the new Congress, the same political party will have controlled the Presidency and both houses of Congress only twice (1993-1995 and 2009-2011) in the 18 most recent sessions of Congress and only four times (adding the post-Watergate Congresses of 1977-1981) in the last 24. I then reviewed the history of government shutdowns and budget battles between the President and Congress as a possible preview to the kinds of battles that will occur between President Obama and the new Republican Congress. I raised the question whether some of the problems enforcing China’s laws might be due to the fact that they are not the product of the kind of hard fought compromises with the regulated community. After lecturing for 90 minutes, I had a lively discussion with the students during a half hour question and answer session. After the session was over a large group of students approached me and we spoke for another 30 minutes. It is such a privilege to get to engage with bright young Chinese students who are concerned about the future of government.
On Friday Dec. 5 I visited the DeTao Academy on the campus of the Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts in the southwest suburbs of Shanghai. I have been appointed as one of DeTao’s “masters,” the only one who specializes in law. I contributed copies of my Environmental Regulation casebook and Statutory and Case Supplement to the DeTao Library and was given briefings on various environmental projects DeTao is pursuing. I met with the staff of DeTao master Kevin Erwin who are working on a large wetlands restoration project on Hainan Island. They noted that China does not have a national wetlands protect law and thus there is less impetus for wetlands mitigation and banking projects in China than in the U.S. I also met with officials from DeTao’s Institute for Green Investment who are working with DeTao master Bob Costanza to develop the first “natural capital balance sheet” for the mayor of Sanya, the principal tourist destination in Hainan Province.
This week the nations of the world have been meeting in Lima, Peru for the 20th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 10th Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP-20/CMP-10). It is hoped that this conference will lay the groundwork for a new global agreement in Paris next year to control emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). Here in China there is considerable discussion of the historic U.S./China climate agreement that was announced last month. Many note that China’s commitment to cap its GHG emissions by 2030 reflects what many Chinese officials had been hinting at over the years, though they acknowledge that China’s emissions currently are rising so rapidly that it will take dramatic changes to achieve the goal. They do give the U.S. credit for pushing environmental initiatives (specifically the phaseout of HFCs) at President Obama’s first summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in June 2013. This and commitments for technological collaboration on carbon capture helped cement the new agreement.
On November 25 EPA proposed new regulations to lower the national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone. The agency proposed to lower the current standard for ozone from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a range between 65 and 70 ppb. Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson had sought to make a similar proposal in 2011, but it was blocked by opposition from President Obama and the Office of Management and Budget. EPA is required to review and revise, if necessary, the NAAQS every five years, a deadline that expired in 2013 for the ozone NAAQS. The agency released its ozone proposal shortly in advance of a court-ordered deadline.
On Saturday I was presented with copies of my new treatise on Environmental Law that has been published in Chinese by Law Press of China. I began work on the treatise as a project for the Federal Judicial Center in the U.S., a project that is still incomplete.
Today I will participate in two classes for NYU’s Shanghai program. Tomorrow I will fly to Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, to deliver a series of lectures. My hosts have promised also to take me to the famous Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of martial arts.