February 18, 2019
by akclairebear
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Environmental Governance in Southeast Asia by William Northrop

During my first-year at law school, I opted to become a dual-degree student, focusing not only on my Juris Doctors, but also on a MELP degree. This, however, was not my original plan when I first came to VLS, as I already had a master’s degree in political science under my belt. What I really wanted to do was study abroad during the summer of 2018. Unfortunately, my financial situation did not allow for me to realize that plan, so I decided to get a second master’s degree that would let me take advantage of VLS’s unique summer programing. When signing up for summer classes, one class in particular, Environmental Governance in the Developing World, caught my eye. Not only did this class provide me an opportunity to learn about a part of the world I had never considered studying before, but it also offered an optional field study trip to Southeast Asia.

Many dogs in Southeast Asia are without homes and tend to be very shy towards humans. However, on a quick pit stop in the Ratanakiri province, we found this little guy who was a bundle of joy and just wanted to play.

Many dogs in Southeast Asia are without homes and tend to be very shy towards humans. However, on a quick pit stop in the Ratanakiri province, we found this little guy who was a bundle of joy and just wanted to play.

Environmental Governance in the Developing World was a real eye opener. Throughout the 8-week course, we discussed various issues facing both Southeast Asia and China, including the Belt and Road Initiative, Environmental Impact Assessments in Southeast Asia, regional cooperation within the Mekong River region, and environmental governance within China. Another large component of the class is a final paper on a topic of your own choosing. This class is a valuable experience, testing the skills you develop throughout your first year in law school. Writing my final paper helped me develop my research abilities outside of Westlaw and Lexis, test my outlining capabilities, and become comfortable with footnotes and Bluebook citations. In addition, writing this paper inspired my note topic for the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law.

When it comes to the optional two-week field study trip in Southeast Asia, I cannot stress how valuable the opportunity is. This year, the trip began in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and ended in Yangon, Myanmar. While in Cambodia, we first met with the Vishnu Law Group and attended presentations on their work on behalf of indigenous communities in the Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri provinces who are being impacted by economic land concessions and land grabs.  We learned that one of the biggest challenges local communities face is in obtaining community-based land title for their lands.

Finishing off a quick lunch with a refreshing coconut while traveling through Cambodia's Mondulkiri Province.

Finishing off a quick lunch with a refreshing coconut while traveling through Cambodia’s Mondulkiri Province.

After meeting with Vishnu, we then departed for the Mondulkiri Province where we visited with Phnong ethnic villagers in the Dak Dam commune to hear from them about their struggle with Mega First Corporation. While in Mondulkiri, we had the opportunity to stay with local families for a night and participate in an Indigenous People’s Day celebration involving music, dancing, and a communal meal. Afterwards, we made the trip to the Ratanakiri province where Vishnu Law Group was representing about a local community that had also been the victim of land-grabbing by a local businessman.  All in all, we spent a good portion of our time in rural areas of Cambodia learning about some of the various issues facing indigenous peoples.

After Cambodia, we traveled to Yangon, Myanmar where we had the opportunity to meet with the Rule of Law Centres in Myanmar, the Myanmar Center for Responsible Business, the Thilawa Special Economic Zone, and Earth Rights International — all of which talked about legal rights at the community level and environmental issues faced by rural communities. This trip was an invaluable opportunity to not only see environmental governance in action, but also to engage directly with local peoples about the issues they are facing. I would recommend this opportunity to anyone, and if I could I would go back in a heartbeat.

While in the Dak Dam community, we received a tour of the area via logging tractors.

While in the Dak Dam community, we received a tour of the area via logging tractors.

November 11, 2018
by William Schulte
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Summer Trip 2018: Environmental Governance in the Developing World

Visiting with local communities in Cambodia

Visiting with local communities in Cambodia

This past August I led Field Study trip to Cambodia and Myanmar as an optional 1-credit addition to the course “Environmental Governance in the Developing World,” which I co-taught with Professor Lin Yanmei as part of Vermont Law School’s Summer Term.  It was the second year for the trip, which is designed to supplement our course and give students a chance to gain first-hand experience learning from local lawyers, activists, and regulators about the issues and challenges for implementing strong environmental governance. Continue Reading →

September 20, 2018
by giannapetito
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Exploring Judicial Remedies for Environmental Harm

It was a busy summer for the PEL program with many visitors to host and trainings to facilitate. One enjoyable highlight was our seminar on Judicial Remedies for Environmental Harm. For two weeks in August, PEL hosted a delegation of environmental judges from China’s Supreme People’s Court and other People’s High Courts across China. This seminar was designed as an experiential-based, hands-on training program in environmental law focused on judicial crafting of remedies for environmental harms including clean-up, restoration, and compensation mechanisms. The training took place primarily in Montpelier, Vermont, with a short component in Boston, Massachusetts.  Targeting senior SPC and provincial-level judges who are responsible for setting court policies, the course balanced emphasis between the substantive details of U.S. procedures and the key principles that could be adopted to shape the Chinese context.

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July 2, 2018
by giannapetito
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Supporting Student Research in China

Each spring, U.S.-Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law (PEL) Associate Director Yanmei Lin teaches a course in Comparative Environmental Law Research. This year, Professor Lin’s students Amanda Carrington (JD ’19) and XinXin Wang (LLM ’18) teamed up to explore the emerging role of environmental public interest litigation and the courts in advancing renewable energy deployment.  Through their research paper Carrington and Wang closely analyzed a newly filed case, Beijing Chaoyang District Friends of Nature Research Institute v. State Grid Gansu Electric Power Company, and formed recommendations for China’s Lanzhou Intermediate People’s Court on how to proceed given the legal context in China and drawing from lessons in U.S. environmental litigation. Continue Reading →

May 29, 2018
by giannapetito
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Lighting Up Cambodia – How and Why Cambodia’s Fuel Mix for Electrification Misses the Mark

Over the past ten years Cambodia has invested heavily in hydropower and coal electric generation to meet growing power demands resulting from the nation’s electrification priorities. Cambodia eagerly pursued hydropower development because its rivers offer an estimated power potential of 10,000 MW. Such capacity would help Cambodia achieve power self-sufficiency and circumvent costly import taxes thereby increasing rate affordability. [1],[2],[3],[4] Coal is an attractive complement because it’s cheap and can offset hydropower seasonality.[5] Both power sources promised massive gains in generation capacity that Cambodia needed to quickly expand access. An overemphasis on access, however, has come at the expense of reliability, affordability, and environmental sustainability meaning that Cambodia’s electric power portfolio carries risks that could be assuaged by diversifying into other renewables and energy efficiency programming.

Image courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

Image courtesy of Phnom Penh Post

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March 30, 2018
by giannapetito
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Can Trans-border Complexities be Governed by Nation-States? Exploring the Role of China in Global Forestry Governance

Author: Sheng Sun (PEL Fellow)

For a long time nation-states were considered “too big for the small problems and too small for the big problems” in public international law and governance, and therefore to some extent have been displaced by public international institutions and private standard-setting. However, to the extent that globalization diminished the voices of local populations and amplified the powers of global political and economic elites, there was bound to be a reckoning between local and global forces for the control of the nation-states (Eric Posner 2017 and Moghalu 2017). It is in this anti-globalization context that nation-states still matter and are increasingly allowed, by international legal norms, to take regulatory measures with extraterritorial and transnational implications. State-based transnational regulatory measures are becoming an important way to deliver international regulatory mandates that directly regulate trans-border private business operations.

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February 27, 2018
by douglaswhitehead
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China’s Ivory Ban: Achievements and Enforcement Challenges

Elephant poaching in Africa has declined steadily over the last 5 years, according to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)[1]. However, global illegal ivory trade is the highest it has been in 6 years, even despite a near total ivory ban adopted by the United States in 2016[2], and a similar ban enacted by China[3] later that year, effective at the end of 2017.

Image source: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/150925-ivory-elephants-us-china-obama-xi-poaching/

Image source: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/09/150925-ivory-elephants-us-china-obama-xi-poaching/

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Cultural relics are protected under China's EPL. Photo credit: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/were-terracotta-warriors-based-on-actual-people-180954321/

January 30, 2018
by gregtisher
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Preserving Culture with EPIL

Like its natural environment, China’s heritage – as embodied in its architectural landmarks, archaeological sites, historic urban neighborhoods, traditional villages, and cultural landscapes – is under threat from the country’s rapid development.[1] One approach to slowing the loss of Chinese heritage is through law, including the Environmental Protection Law (2014 revision). The law, while focused on the natural environment, also calls for the preservation of cultural heritage, by including cultural relics[2] and historic sites[3] in its definition of “environment” (article 2); obligating governments at all levels to protect cultural relics from damage (article 29); and envisioning increased protections for urban historic sites (article 35).

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December 19, 2017
by Xiaoyu Zhang
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Newest Judges Training in Beijing Runs Successfully

Working together with ClientEarth and the Supreme People’s Court of China (SPC), PEL supported a training on Environmental Adjudication for 138 Chinese Environmental Judges. The training, which was held at the National Judges College in Beijing from November 28 to December 2, 2017, fostered fruitful cross-cultural dialogue and nurtured new relationships between Chinese Judges and foreign legal experts.

Attendants at the National Judges Training on Environmental Adjudication

Attendants at the National Judges Training on Environmental Adjudication

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