In a ceremony at the United Nations on Earth Day (April 22), representatives of 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement that had been reached on December 12, 2015. The agreement contains new commitments from the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. The representatives were accompanied by 197 children from various nations, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s granddaughter. Kerry signed the agreement while holding his granddaughter. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated: "These young people are our future. Our covenant is with them. Today is a day for our children and grandchildren and all generations to come."
On Earth Day the Environmental Law Institute (ELI) unveiled its long-awaited environmental law oral history project. ELI President Scott Fulton stated the the project “provide[s] first-hand interviews of men and women from a variety of career backgrounds who were instrumental in catalyzing the environmental laws of the 1970s that have served as the bedrock of environmental protection in the decades since.” These include: John Adams, Michael Bean, Fran Beinecke, Leon Bills and Tom Jorling, Leslie Carothers, Henry Diamond, Bill Eichbaum, J. William Futrell, Kinnan Golemon, Denis Hayes, George Mitchell, Jim Moorman, Mary Nichols, William Reilly, William Rodgers, William Ruckelshaus, George Shultz, David Sive, Gus Speth, Robert Stanton, Russell Train, Henry Waxman, and Nick Yost. The interviews can be viewed online at: http://www.eli.org/celebrating-pioneers-in-environmental-law.
Last week six environmental heroes were honored as recipients of the Goldman Environmental Prize. They included a Baltimore high school student, Destiny Watford, Zuzana Caputova of Slovakia, Leng Ouch of Cambodia, Máxima Acuña of Costa Rica, Luis Jorge Rivera Herrerra of Puerto Rico, and Edward Loure of Tanzania. Ms. Watford helped organize her fellow students to protest the siting of what would have been the nation’s largest incinerator less than a mile from her school. Having blocked the project, they now hope to turn the site into a solar farm. Information about all of the 2016 recipients is available online at: http://www.goldmanprize.org/prize-recipients/current-recipients/
Having finished spring classes last week, this week was a very active one for me. I gave four presentations in four cities in four days. After finishing my first guest lecture on Chinese environmental law in College Park on April 19, I had a near disaster. While returning to the parking garage, I placed my laptop (in its Twelve South Hardback leather book case) on the trunk of my car. Distracted by a call on my car’s phone, I forgot about the laptop and it fell off my trunk as I pulled away. After returning to Capital Hill I found an email message from Abdelrahman Hammad, a UM-College Park student, telling me that he had retrieved the laptop after it fell off my trunk. Fortunately its case cushioned the fall and it was working fine. I immediately returned to College Park’s Student Union where Mr. Hammad returned the laptop to me. He refused to accept a reward, saying that he would hope that a stranger would do the same for him if he lost his laptop. Mr. Hammad, thank you for saving my week, which would have been hard to face without my laptop.
On April 20 I gave a guest lecture on climate change to a seminar on “Critical Issues in Global Health,” which is taught in the UM-Baltimore Nursing School. On April 21 I was invited to comment on Georgetown Law Professor Randy Barnett’s new book “Our Republican Constitution: Securing the Liberty and Sovereignty of We the People” at a book launch event at the Cato Institute. Video of the program is online at: http://www.cato.org/events/our-republican-constitution-securing-liberty-sovereignty-we-people In my comments I decried the politicization of the courts, which has been taken to unprecedented levels by the right’s insistence that Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court is not even worthy of a hearing because he probably would not decide cases to reach their preferred results.
On April 22 I was a speaker on a program on “Emerging Theories of Climate Liability and Enforcement” at the University of Houston. Also speaking on the program were former EPA general counsel Roger Martella and Professor Clara Poffenberger. We discussed lawsuits seeking to hold large polluters or governments responsible for the harmful impacts of climate change and the effort by attorneys general to investigate potential RICO liability by ExxonMobil for alleged efforts to deliberately deceive the public about climate change. Video of the program will be posted in the near future at: http://www.law.uh.edu/eenrcenter/speaker-series.asp
More student blog posts have been added today that can be viewed on my parallel blog at: www.globalenvironmentallaw.com by clicking on the “Students” tab at the top of the opening page. These include Nicholas Warren’s discussion of the difficulties of enforcing foreign environmental judgments, analysis by Zhang Zhouxian of litigation by NGOs under China’s new public interest litigation law, and Jinxin Sui’s discussion of environmental law in India.
Tomorrow I leave for Rio de Janeiro to participate in the first World Congress on Environmental Rule of Law at the Supreme Court of Rio de Janeiro. The Congress also will feature the launch of the Global Judicial Institute on the Environment, an organization designed to assist judges around the world in developing greater capacity to handle environmental cases.