Saturday, September 12, 2009

Nuclear Power on the Way Back?

This week, two influential publications -- The Wall Street Journal in the U.S. and the Financial Times in Europe -- published separate analyses about nuclear power. The headlines give a snapshot of the coverage:

"Split on the Atom: In the fight to secure fuel supplies and cut carbon emissions, nuclear power looks increasingly attractive -- but it is also generating concern over proliferation." Financial Times, Sept. 9, 2009.

"The New Nukes: The next generation of nuclear reactors is on its way, and supporters say they will be safer, cheaper and more efficient than current plants." The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 8, 2009. (It is also worth noting that this issue of the WSJ included articles about energy efficiency and solar energy.)

Anyone interested in the future of nuclear power should read the coverage in both of these publications.

Friday, September 11, 2009

French President Sarkozy Calls for EU "Carbon Tax" on Imports

French President Nicholas Sarkozy has reiterated his support for an EU "carbon tax" on imports from countries that have not implemented carbon reduction plans.

Speaking to factory workers in France earlier this week, President Sarkozy said, "I will not accept a system...that imports products from countries that don't respect the rules [on carbon emission reductions]," the Financial Times reported ("Sarkozy in New EU Carbon Tax Call," Sept. 11, 2009). "We need to impose a carbon tax at [Europe's] borders. I will lead that battle," he said.

Is this a realistic possibility or a dream on the French president's part? Hard to say for sure. However, if the EU is disappointed with the UN climate change conference in Denmark in December, then will they feel compelled to institute such a tariff? Tax measures at EU level are very difficult to legislate, and it is entirely possible that one or more of the 27 member states would object to such a move.

In addition, the message to non-carbon reducing countries (which currently include China, India, and the U.S. to name just three) might be construed as environmental protectionism.

But let's first see what happens in Copenhagen and then revisit President Sarkozy in mid-December.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Conflicts in Argentine Mining Exploration: DU LLM Graduate and Professor Take Part in Presentation at Austral University

Leonardo Rodriguez, May 2008 LLM graduate and winner of the Outstanding Student of the Year Award in 2009, gave a presentation on "Conflict Issues in Argentine Mining Exploration," recently in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Leonardo's presentation was part of a larger program, "Use of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection: Legal and Economic Criteria to Solve Conflict Issues," that was organized at the Austral University School of Law in Buenos Aires.

DU Prof. Jan Laitos, an internationally respected expert on natural resources law and author of numerous books on natural resources, helped organize the event and presented as well. Prof. Laitos also serves as a trustee for the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation.

Following his graduation from DU, Leonardo returned to Buenos Aires and the law firm of Marval O'Farrell & Mairal.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

LLM Student Spends Summer Working for Korea Green Foundation's Climate Change Center

Ji Yeon Seo, a prospective December 2009 LLM graduate, had an amazing experience this past summer working for a South Korean NGO focusing on climate change.

Ms. Seo, who studied law in South Korea before coming to DU in 2008 to pursue her LLM degree, worked for the Climate Change Center, which is part of the country's most well known environmental NGO Korea Green Foundation.

I'll let Ms. Seo tell her story...

This past summer, I had an internship in Korea for five weeks. It was a really great opportunity to explore how Korean society deals with climate change, the most urgent environmental challenge that the world faces.

On the first day of my internship a graduation ceremony of the 3rd Climate Change Leadership Program was held. About 50 people had completed their course work and received certificates from the Climate Change Leadership Program. It was a 10-week course, where leading scholars and experts from Korea and abroad provided a high quality education about climate change. Most participants were members of the National Assembly, ministers of the government, professors, CEOs of companies and state-sponsored institutions, and legal experts. To date, about 180 people have completed this program and are now working as climate leaders in their fields. On September, the 4th Program began.

On my third day, the opening ceremony of the climate change exhibition was held. The Korea Green Foundation held the exhibition in collaboration with American Museum of Natural History in New York. This is the most ambitious project of this year aimed at educating people, especially children and students, and to make people aware of the seriousness of climate change. I also worked at the Science Museum, where the exhibition is being held. I enjoyed this experience, interacting with others who were visiting the exhibition, instead of staying in an office. So far, more than 170,000 people have visited the exhibition.

I was also actively involved in the Strategic Programme Fund during my internship. The UK Department of Foreign Affairs provided funding to educate Korean business leaders. The Climate Change Center is the main body carrying out the project. We introduced the program to business leaders and encouraged them to join this program. On June 25, the opening ceremony of the SPF was held and the British Ambassador to South Korea delivered the keynote speech in Korean. (I was so impressed and his Korean was so beautiful). The first meeting will be 14 September. There will be four forums per year (in total eight meetings over two years), where climate experts and government officials will discuss climate change in depth. We have published the first monthly-newsletters in May for the participants and my article about U.S. efforts to combat climate change (the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) was reported in the newsletter.

Finally, I had a really great opportunity to attend the 2009 Global Environmental Forum in Songdo, Korea. It was held August 11-12, and the theme was Global Environmental Outlook and Low-Carbon Green Growth toward Sustainable Development in the 21th Century. Many climate experts provided their insight and advice.

The most impressive aspect of my internship involved the people I worked with. They care passionately about the natural environment. For instance, they do not use paper cups, plastic plates and wooden chopsticks; they use public transportation to travel to work; they use environment-friendly and energy-saving products even though those products are not cheap. They are on the very front line in the battle over climate change and many other environmental problems that we face. I was very impressed with their efforts, and as a consequence I have tried to change my attitude and life-style.

In closing, I am so lucky to have had the chance to meet these people and work together with them this past summer. It was a really great opportunity to explore how Korean society is dealing with climate change, which is the most urgent environmental challenge the world faces.

Ji Yeon Yeon Seo
September 9, 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Calculating Products' Pollution: A New Type of Job in a World Increasingly Concerned About Pollution

Get ready for yet another new type of job associated with pollution: professional pollution calculators. You might think I am kidding, but in reality that is not the case whatsoever.

A recent story in The Wall Street Journal ("Hot Job: Calculating Products' Pollution," Sept. 1, 2009) provides multiple examples of companies that are beginning to carefully track -- and provide to their customers -- information about pollution associated with various products.

Life cycle assessments, which measure the energy and pollution associated with creating, delivering, and disposing of products, have been a part of the European scene for many years. However, in the U.S. this has not attracted anywhere near the same amount of attention. Until now.

Walmart Corp. announced in July 2009 that it will be creating a Sustainability Index. According to Mike Duke, president and CEO, "The Index will bring about a more transparent supply chain, drive product innovation and, ultimately, provide consumers the information they need to assess the sustainability of products."

Does this mark a sea change in how consumers will make buying decisions? Too early to tell probably. But it is safe to conclude that once Walmart does something, many others ultimately follow.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Environmental Law Clinic Director Prof. Mike Harris Creating Groundbreaking "Colorado Urban Project"

University of Denver College of Law Prof. Mike Harris is in the process of establishing the groundbreaking "Colorado Urban Project," an effort that will address environmental and wildlife issues related to the projected rapid population growth in Denver and along Colorado's front range.

As Prof. Harris, who also directs the DU Environmental Law Clinic, explained in the latest issue of the Sturm College of Law Alumni Magazine ("Can the Law Protect Our Environmental Future? The Colorado Urban Project", Summer 2009):

"Working on air quality in Los Angeles is a thumb-in-the-dike proposition. You're focusing on damage control. But here in Denver, we've got all of our population growth in front of us. We can get out ahead of these problems and really make a difference. If we can just come to terms with meaningful environmental planning in Colorado, we can assure a future with not only economic growth, but with sustainable, healthy neighborhoods as well."

Prof. Harris is working along three fronts in the creation of the Colorado Urban Project:

  • Establishing a clinic for students to gain practical experience;
  • Building a corresponding curriculum; and
  • Expanding relationships with local politicians, community groups, and environmental advocates.
The opportunity to work with visionary leaders like Prof. Mike Harris is yet another example of why the DU Environmental and Natural Resources Law & Policy Graduate Program is the place to study today's "cutting edge" environmental and natural resources issues.