Inernational Environmental Law

 

International Environmental Law and Policy

 

armin rosencranz  Guest lecturer: Armin Rosencranz

Armin Rosencranz, a lawyer and political scientist, has taught a variety of environmental policy courses at Stanford since 1995, and has received a number of teaching awards. Until 1996, Armin headed Pacific Environment, an international NGO that he founded in 1987. He is co-editor of Climate Change Science and Policy (2010). <https://explorecourses.stanford.edu/instructor/armin>


International Environmental Law – Part I


 

Introduction

 

Life has dramatically changed every year; everything that is seen in movies seems to become real. People's imaginations can make anything possible these days. There is a wide range of energy technology available:

  • solar energy
  • wind energy
  • bioenergy
  • geothermal energy
  • ocean energy

 

Up-to-date biogas technology has been getting spotlighted in the energy industry since the Kyoto agreement. Biogas from anaerobic digestion represents one of the best options to generate powerful energy without spending enormous costs to maintain and does not damage the environment. In particular, biogas is recommended to developing countries because of its efficiency and low costs of operating the system. Kenya’s government announced that they will provide 2 million households in Africa with biogas digesters by 2020.[1]

 

Even though biogas is in the limelight as an energy resource, not many countries have prepared the proper regulations or legislations to ensure the implementation and development of biogas systems because it is necessary to consider different areas of existing laws such as agriculture, fishery, and organic waste management and its outcome, which directly or indirectly impacts the environment.  Albeit Australia has enacted legislation for gas safety under separate acts in each state, but does not specifically deal with biogas itself. This article will briefly discuss the history of biogas, explain what biogas is, any risks associated with biogas plants, regulation of biogas in Australia, and compare biogas systems in other countries.

 


History of Biogas

 

Biogas has many different names, such as swamp gas, sewer gas, fuel gas, and wet gas. It has a long history of approximately 230 years, and experiments were first conducted around 1770 by the eminent Italian natural scientist Alessandro Volta. He collected marsh gases from lakes and succeeded in conducting combustion experiments. Michael Faraday, the English physicist, also experimented with marsh gas and identified it as a hydrocarbon. The biggest experiment was performed in 1821 by the Italian scientist Amedeo Avogadro, who identified the chemical formula in methane (CH4).

 

In the 19th century, the French bacteriologist Louis Pasteur successfully performed experiments on biogas generation from cow manure and discovered the microbiological formation of CH4/CO2 from acetate with the German chemist Felix Hoppe-Seyler. Pasteur suggested utilizing manure from the Parisian horse fleet for gas production to fuel street lighting.[2] In 1970, people were demanding biogas due to an oil crisis, and biogas technology was promoted by the government since there was great profitability in using power derived from biogas.[3]

Unlike European countries, Australia has not had a long history of using biogas and it is still in the development stage.[4] All states have similar regulations and structures that were implemented between 1987 and 2007.[5]

 


[1] IBP, Inc, Kenya Energy Policy, Laws and Regulation Handbook Volume 1 Strategic Information and Regulations (Lulu.com, 2008) 87.

[2] Michael Schön, Numerical Modelling of Anaerobic Digestion Processes in Agricultural Biogas Plants (BoD – Books on Demand, 2010) 1-2.

[3] Dieter Deublein and Angelika Steinhauser, Biogas from Waste and Renewable Resources: An Introduction (John Wiley & Sons, 2008) 29-31.

[4] Atul Sharma and Sanjay Kumar Kar(eds), Energy Sustainability Through Green Energy (Springer, 2015) 377.

[5]GHD Pty Ltd, Assessment of Australian biogas flaring standards (2008) Rural industries research and development  corporation 1, 14.

 


 

What, in your view, are the two most important global environmental issues of the 21st century, and what can be done to address each of them? (exclude fisheries)

 

From my point of view, the air pollution and the landfill pollution is the most significant elements which seriously impact on the global environment today, those two problems are relatively related to the each other, in particular, the landfill pollution has become a key causation of other form of pollution. Many developed countries have illegally transferred enormous toxic rubbish to the developing countries such as Cambodia and India, these toxic bi-products are buried on the ground and washed away by rain which causes the contamination of soil and groundwater.

Also, these toxic is emitted into the atmosphere after being burned in the form of gases polluting the air. Among other waste, e-waste, for instance, electronic toy, mobile phone, digital cameras, laptops and any other electronic devices has become the most concerned waste than any others that is being dumped illegally in the developing countries. According to Ruediger Kuehr,[1] the volume of end-of-life TVs, phones, computers, e-toys and other products to be enough to fill a 15,000-mile line of 40-tonne lorries and Germany is the biggest e-waster polluter which discards the most e-waste in total. In the case of air pollution in China, which seriously influences on not only the neighbor countries such as South Korea, Japan but also dramatically impacts on downwind countries, some of air pollution reaches the United States. China’s yellow dust, often called as Asian dust, is a springtime meteorological phenomenon caused in western China blows up tons of dust in the Gobi and Takla Makan Deserts.[2] This dust causes a wide range of health threats in downwind countries and especially it exacerbates a pollen allergy.

To address these issues, UN should regulate the strict rules of transferring rubbish to the developing countries or add this issue in the Treaty so that it may stop the malicious act  of the developed countries. It is difficult to say that China has to take responsibility of air pollution due to the most of factories in China is  the companies from the developed countries. Hence, Chinese government should regulate strict liability against  these company for instance, apply heavy penalty or permanently ban any companies who seriously cause air pollution in China.


[1] Ruediger Kuehr is an head of the United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace SCYCLE unit, works on sustainable production, consumption and disposal issues. He is an author of E-waste: From Recycling to Resources (2010) and 2008 Review of Directive 2002/96/EC on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

[2] Armin Rosencranz and Takanobu Terada, Maryland School of Public Policy, China and Trans-boundary Air Pollution  

 


International Environmental Law – Part I

 

Which three of the 20 global environmental norms seem the most important to you? Explain your choices.

 

Among other norms, I believe that the polluter pays principle, environmental impact assessment and sustainable development is the most important norms in this 21th century. The Polluter Pay Principle (PPP) is derived from the U.S. Clean Air Act of 1970  and have first emerged in 1972 in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) argued that the polluter country should pay for what they did.[1] As we all know, China is the biggest serious polluter which is a developing country, recently pleads additional donation from the developed countries for climate change. China also help other developing countries but I urge that they should stop the action of pleading for donation to the developed countries, they should pay additional costs for climate change since the Chinese government has enough budget to pay for it based on the PPP.[2] Another norm that I consider it is important is "Environment Impact Assessment" that it reduces enormous amount of budgets of town planning, anticipates and objectively evaluates the future plan. This is relatively related to the norm fifteen, sustainable development, it  must be seriously considered and performed under the strict supervision prior to launching the projects.

In the case of South Korea, the Korean government did not sufficiently contemplate this factor (the government only focus on economic development after Korean war) now they are facing with unforeseeable natural disaster such as the enormous size of sinkholes and  landslides across country. For the public safety, environment impact assessment must be considered and implemented by the government and relative bodies of the country. As briefly mentioned above, the norm fifteen, sustainable development is relatively related to the environment impact assessment. The nations must environmentally friendly develop their country without damaging environment. The four river refurbishment project in South Korea was adopted by a previous president, Myung bak, he divided South Korea into 2 parts, the west and the east,  as a result of that, many animal and fishery species are extinct or in a state of extinction. Also, people are suffering from a dramatic weather change since unsustainable development.

 


Most of the 198 countries that participated in the Paris COP 21 last month pledged to rely on renewable energy to supply up to 30% of their energy needs by no later than 2030. What political, social and economic factors will help to achieve or fail to achieve this goal?

 

The definition of reviewable energy is differ from countries, organization or in the academic debate. The International Energy Agency (IEA) defines reviewable energy as  energy that is derived from natural processes that are replenished constantly and it classifies every generated from solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, hydropower and ocean resources and biofuels and hydrogen derived from reviewable resources as renewable energies.[1] There are many political, social and economic factors to consider for successful implementation of renewable energy. Generally, in the developed countries, economic factors is not as much as considered as other political and social factors. I agree with Andrew Blakers who is a director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSES) stated that most of Australia’s existing coal power stations will be retired over the next two decades and replaced by cheaper PV and wind but the Greens' plan for 90% renewables by 2030 sounds hard yet I believe that 30% is possible.[2]

I anticipate that all other developed countries can increase the use of renewable energy up to 30%  by a stipulated date, however there are many barriers such as limited finance aid or lack of technology in the developing countries  may lead to the failure of this goal. Among other any factors, economic status are the most significant factors when replacing renewable energy. Alternative energy with solar power and win power and hydropower is expensive to operate in the developing countries,  geothermal power is cheaper to operate than others but should consider unforeseeable dangerous earthquake at any time. Due to a small size of biomass power plant (fixed dome biogas plant) costs only small amount money to install in each family house without wasting natural resources it can be a main renewable energy in the developing countries. Depending on the position(status?) where the country is standing, the different factors should be considered to achieve the goal.


[1] Katrin Jordan-Korte, Government Promotion of Renewable Energy Technologies: Policy Approaches and Market Development in Germany, the United States, and Japan (Springer Science & Business Media, 2011) 11.

[2] Andrew Blakers, The Greens' plan for 90% renewables by 2030 sounds hard, but it stacks up (24, November 2015 ) <https://theconversation.com/the-greens-plan-for-90-renewables-by-2030-sounds-hard-but-it-stacks-up-51115>.

 


*ABOVE content was prepared for the purpose of presentation and the final exam during the international environmental law and policy course. You can use only for reference purpose. Download full content: http://www.jinslegalstory.com/product/law-note-international-environment-law-and-policy/

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