On Sunday night March 20 I returned from ten days in China where I led Maryland’s biennial environmental law field trip. This year’s group consisted of eleven law students, two alums, myself and Professor Mike Pappas and program managing director Bill Piermattei. We arrived in Beijing on March 11 and on March 12 we visited the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, Houhai Lake and the offices of the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV). CLAPV discussed some of the lawsuits it has brought under China’s new legislation expressly authorizing public interest environmental litigation. These included successful litigation against a mine in a national protected area for which damages for ecosystem destruction were awarded.
On March 13 Maryland law dean Donald Tobin and Director of Admissions Katrina Schroll joined us for a trip to the Great Wall at Mutianyu. After a long hike along the wall we all enjoyed sliding down on toboggans. After visiting the Lama Temple in Beijing on the morning of March 14, the group visited the offices of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). EDF staff briefed us on their efforts to assist the Chinese government in extending seven pilot carbon cap-and-trade programs into a national system. NRDC staff briefed us on their efforts to educate Chinese lawyers in how to bring public interest litigation under China’s newly amended environmental law.
On the evening of March 14 the group took an overnight train to Xi’an where we visited the site where thousands of terracotta warriors were buried by Emporer Qin in the third century BC. We also explored Xian’s old city walls and visited an art gallery where we learned how to write Chinese characters. On March 17 we flew from Xi’an to Shanghai where the group visited the World Financial Center, Taikang Lu (Tenzi Fang), Yuyuan Gardens and the Jade Buddha Temple. On March 18 I hosted a reception at the Marriott Tomorrow Square where the group heard Zhenxi Zhong from the Shanghai office of Jane Goodell’s Roots & Shoots talk about that groups efforts to improve environmental education in China and to plant two million trees in Mongolia.
On March 19 my students and I participated in a day-long conference on “Green China: A Summit on Public Interest Litigation and Environmental Governance” at Shanghai Jiatong University’s Koguan School of Law. The conference was terrific because it included more top Chinese environmental law experts than I have ever seen gathered in one place. After introductory welcomes from Shanghai Jiatong law dean Weidong Ji and Maryland Law dean Donald Tobin, I gave one of the opening keynotes on the importance of public interest litigation for the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental law. A particularly interesting part of the conferene was a roundtable discussion featuring Ge Feng from Friends of Nature, Ma Yong from the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation, and Liu Xiang from CLAPV. They expressed growing optimism concerning the state of environmental law in China. Two important issues that remain unresolved are the relationship between NGOs and the procurate, which also has been authorized to bring public interest environmental litigation, and how natural resource damages awards should be used.
Four of my students made presentations at the conference. Maryland 2L Renee Lani spoke about the importance of environmental law clinics. Maryland 1L Catherine McGrath presented on the use of market share liability in MTBE cases in the U.S. Maryland 2L Zhang Zhuoxian spoke on what Chinese courts could learn from U.S. experience and Maryland 2L Zach Wilkins spoke about efforts to control transboundary air pollution in ASEAN nations. I hope to post an album of photos from the trip in the near future on my parallel blog at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com
In other news:
Global carbon emissions remained flat for the second straight year, aided by a decline in coal consumption in China.
At a White House meeting, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Obama pledged to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations in the U.S. and Canada.
Thousands of fish died in Ulsoor Lake in Bengaluru, India due to failure to repair a barrier designed to keep sewage out of the lake.
J.P. Morgan Chase joined the growing list of major financial institutions to announce that it will no longer finance new coal mines.
The Otsu District Court in Japan issued an injunction halting the restart of reactors No. 3 & 4 at Kansai Electric Power Company’s Takahama nuclear power plant.