December 2010

This morning I attended two Vermont Law School – Sun Yat-sen University Collaborative Research Presentations held on campus in Guangzhou. The first paper was entitled “Promoting Green Jobs Through Wind Energy: A Comparison of U.S. and China Policies.” Their key research goal was a comparative analysis of US and Chinese law in the development of renewable energy, especially wind, and the emerging market for “green jobs” (a term they sought to define). The second paper was “The Resurrection of Water: Guangdong’s Pollution Permitting System,” which compared environmental impact assessment and water permitting regimes in the two countries. Following the presentation, we had lunch with Chinese students and faculty, and then I took my Vermont Law students on a campus tour and the local market.

See here.

(1) California solar firm, 620 jobs coming to Wisconsin

(2) From Legal Planet: EPA takes first step

As part of Vermont Law School’s US-China Partnership in Environmental Law, five Vermont Law students are selected to participate in collaborative research projects with 5 Chinese law students in Beijing and Guangzhou. Tomorrow morning I’ll attend the paper presentations of the 2 students working with students at Sun Yat-sen University.

In an effort to increase opportunities for our students in China, today we had lunch with U.S. government officials in China that work in the environmental and public health areas. They were very helpful, providing our student with research resources and ideas for internship possibilities in Asia. Then tonight my family and I hosted a dinner at our local restaurant for the Vermont Law students and 12 Chinese law and graduate students. It was a huge success with students exchanging email addressed and phone numbers, and many offers to show our Vermont students around Guangzhou and China.

See here.

Despite the fact that I ate something that decidedly did not agree with me, yesterday was a very good day. I lectured on current events in US climate policy to Sun Yat-sen University graduate students, and, in the evening, I lectured to a packed house of Chinese nationals (~100 people) at the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China.

As many know, I’ve been doing more work on the relationship between food, law, and the environment. What was also nice about yesterday is I received an email inviting me to be a panelist on the subject of food eco-labeling at the Sustainable Foods Institute. The Institute is part of a three-day series of "Cooking for Solutions" events organized by Monterey Bay Aquarium (an outgrowth of their Seafood Watch Program) that bring together some of North America’s greatest chefs as well as figures in the organic and sustainable foods movement. The event is designed to reach and influence members of the food and environmental media, as well as food industry leaders.

Now while I’m happy to hang with celebrity chefs, eat 5-star cuisine, and meet well-known food authors, I’m mostly thrilled that they invited me because they liked my article on food eco-labeling. Amazing…a draft law review article was actually read by someone outside the legal academy.

Our China schedule is officially booked. Yesterday afternoon and this morning I gave a lectures on U.S. climate policy and litigation at Sun Yat-sen University, and tonight I give lecture at the U.S. Consulate on environmentalism. I have meetings and meals planned the rest of the week with Chinese faculty colleagues, former Chinese students and government officials, and Friday morning are the collaborative Vermont Law School / Sun Yat-sen University student paper presentations. (Five Vermont Law School students arrived in Guangzhou yesterday). And before leaving for San Francisco for the AALS Annual Meeting, I meet with folks at WWF Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Bureau. One very busy week!

Today, as part of my “public diplomacy” tour with the U.S. Consulate, I delivered a lecture on “Everyday Environmentalism” (based on my forthcoming book) to environmental science undergrads at the South China University of Technology (SCUT). About 30 students attended to discuss the environmental impacts of individual behavior on the environment (energy, waste, food choices, etc.). The Q&A was enjoyable with topics including Chinese and American consumption patterns; transportation infrastructure; and the role of University students in improving the environment in China. After the lecture, I had a fantastic lunch with SCUT faculty, students, and the Secretary General of the University.

I just finished reading “Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food” by Paul Greenberg. The book tracks the fisheries decline of four fisheries, salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna, and offers up “better” domesticated alternatives such as tilapia, tra, barramundi, and kahala.

At the end of the day, I think Greenberg wishes for some small scale artisanal fish industry, but recognizes the need for industrial fish farming that is done sustainably (thus not wild fish, but farmed fish kept out of nature using limited and healthy feed).

While I liked the book, I was concerned with what I found to be Greenberg’s strong faith in law and governance and his limited faith in the ability of consumer behavior to impact environmental change and improve the status of fisheries. (Though I understand his view given, for example, his disappointment with the Marine Stewardship Certification process that consumers rely on.) Overall a good read that makes me want to learn more about ocean law and policy (e.g., Sustainable Fisheries Act), and understand more about cutting edge fish farming techniques.

Finally, a joke from the book:

Question: “How do you tell a farmed fish from a wild fish?”

Answer: “The farmed one is cross-eyed from staring up at the hole in the outhouse.”

From China Digital Times:

Stanley Lubman: Failures in Enforcing China’s Green Legislation

For the Wall Street Journal’s China Real TIme blog, Chinese law expert Stanley Lubman writes about why anti-pollution laws which are on the books are so difficult to enforce in China:

There are numerous reasons why effective enforcement both by the EPBs [Environmental Protection Bureaus] and civil suits is greatly hampered. Local EPBs are only “nominally responsible” to the ministry-level Environmental Protection Administration in Beijing, as Elizabeth Economy notes in her 2004 book “The River Runs Black,” and rely on local governments for “virtually all their support.” Local government officials also benefit from higher levels of output in their region, as Gregory Chow has observed, noting that “they receive credits for economic development and sometimes bribes from polluting producers.” Local governments, the courts and the EPBs give protection to key local enterprises.
A recent study in the academic journal “China Quarterly” on the efforts of local EBPs in Hubei Province to sue polluters who had failed to pay fines provides an example of these dynamics:
In Hubei, the study reports, any discharger of wastewater must register and report on their discharges, and the reports provide the basis on which the EPBs determine any pollution levies that must be paid. If the polluters fail to comply, they may be sued both for the unpaid amount and an administrative penalty.
In 1990, the National People’s Congress adopted the Administrative Litigation Law (“ALL”), which authorized not only civil suits against government agencies for alleged illegalities, but also suits by government agencies for judicial assistance when regulated parties fail to comply with agency decisions. In the early 1990s, when the ALL was still novel, citizens were reluctant to file cases against government agencies–a problem for the administrative law divisions of some courts that faced elimination because of small caseloads. In three areas in Hubei the courts approached local EPBs and cooperated with them in enforcing levies and administrative fines.
The arrangement has been a win-win, but only in one sense. The agencies file more cases, helping the courts increase their caseloads and generate litigation fees. The enforcement cases also generate revenues for the EPBs, which use the funds to supplement their underfunded budgets. As a result, the EPBs seek fines rather than ordering polluters to take measures to reduce pollution.

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