09 octubre 2007

Climate Change Developments, por Bob Percival

Nota de la editora
Agradecemos al Profesor Robert Percival, Director del Programa de Derecho Ambiental de la Universidad de Maryland, por su contribución a nuestro blog, a través de la siguiente entrada, publicada originalmente en The Global Environmental Law Blog el 23/09/07, mientras transcurría la última Asamblea General de Naciones Unidas.
While this week is “climate week” with the United Nations General Assembly session on Monday focusing on climate change and the White House hosting its own gathering on Thursday and Friday, there were important developments last week. As predicted in our August 26 blog entry, the parties to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer agreed on a more rapid phaseout of hydroflourocarbons (HCFCs) when meeting in Montreal last week to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Protocol. Under the agreement HCFCs will be phased out in developed countries by 2020 and in the developing world by 2030, a decade ahead of the existing deadlines. This proposal was embraced as a means for obtaining far greater reductions in greenhouse gases at a much lower cost than the Kyoto Protocol. Durwood Zaelke deserves enormous credit for his work on promoting this proposal on behalf of NGOs. The idea was so compelling that it even received strong support from Boyden Gray, who currently is serving as the U.S. Ambassador to the EU as a recess appointee. (Gray is known for helping win adoption of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments while serving as White House counsel to President George H.W. Bush, but he later railed against them, and against environmentalists in general, after returning to work as an industry lawyer).
Other important developments on the climate change front in recent weeks included the September 12th decision by a federal district court in Vermont upholding state efforts to set limits on emissions of greenhouse gases by automobiles (the decision can be found at: http://www.vtd.uscourts.gov/Supporting%20Files/Cases/05cv302.pdf) and a September 17th decision by a federal judge in California dismissing the state’s climate change nuisance suit against automobile manufacturers as a political question (Available here)
In other news, the Vatican now claims to be the first state to entirely offset its carbon emissions by paying Klimafa, a new company, to plant trees in a 37-acre “Vatican climate forest” along the Tisza River in Hungary. See Elisabeth Rosenthal, “Vatican Tree Penance: Forgive Us Our CO2,” New York Times, Sept. 17, 2007, A1. (The Tisza River attracted international attention in January 2000 when a collapsed tailings pond cause a massive cyanide spill upstream in Romania). Environmental Defense and CERES filed a petition asking the Securities and Exchange Commission to require companies to disclose company estimates of the climate change risks their businesses face. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has issued supboenas to some utilities to determine if they are hiding similar information. On Monday former President Clinton will release the results of the 2007 Carbon Disclosure Project, which requested data from 2,400 companies on how they manage climate change risks. For more information see http://www.cdproject.net/.
Tomorrow’s UN session will feature an address by Al Gore. While President Bush will not attend the actual session, 80 other heads of state are expected (Bush reportedly will attend the dinner following the session). On Thursday and Friday the White House will host its own climate change gathering with representatives of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. The Bush administration has let it be known in advance that it will continue to refuse to commit to anything but voluntary measures, a position that will enable the developing countries present (China, India, Brazil and Indonesia) to refuse to endorse mandatory limits applicable to them.

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