Ius Gentium

University of Baltimore School of Law's Center for International and Comparative Law Fellows discuss international and comparative legal issues


Leave a comment

Bad Air? Have no fear! Bottled Air is here!

Jasmine Pope

Can’t breathe? Have no fear, bottled air is here! Yes, you read that correctly. No, this is not a joke. Companies are bottling and selling air. Not just any air though: companies are selling the best of the best, thehighest quality air money can buy. The idea of bottled air might have started as a joke, but it is no laughing matter now. But don’t judge air by its bottle, air also comes in cans and even bags! Companies, such as Vitality Air, Aethaer, and Green and Clean, are making millions of dollars in this emerging industry. Many of these companies started as a joke, with some even selling bagged air on eBay. So then why sell air? Well, because people will actually buy it.

Leo De Watts is the founder of Aethaer, a British company with the goal that “buyers would come to regard [the] product as a collectible, like a sculpture or a limited-edition print made by an artist.”[i] How could air in a bottle become a collectible? De Watts notes that “clean air is actually a very rare commodity.”[ii] He’s not wrong. Places like India, China, and Southeast Asia are being choked by smog.

Pollution & The World Health Organization

Air pollution is defined as “contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere.”[iii] In 2012, World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 12.6 million people died as a result of living or working in unhealthy environments.[iv]  As of this year, 92% of the world’s population is living in an environment where the air quality exceeds WHO limits.[v] This means that only eight percent of the world’s population lives in an environment where the air quality meets WHO regulations. What are the risks of living and breathing polluted air? Overtime, as air quality declines, “the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases increases for the people who live in them.”[vi]

The Eastern World

Cities and towns in Southeast Asia, China, and India are being smothered by smog. When pollution levels are high in China, “you can definitely smell the pollution. Your eyes itch, you cough. It’s like a very rich, dense soup.”[vii] Until very recently, the Chinese government refused to address the issue of air pollution, let alone recognize that there was indeed air pollution. In December 2015, for the first time ever, Beijing issued a pollution red alert, canceling classes for days, pulled cars off the road, shut down barbeque stalls, and halted outdoor construction.[viii] A red alert is the highest level in a four-tier system. Some people have viewed the declaring of a red alert as a sign of progress because “[the government is] understanding how they should react and respond to these extreme conditions.”[ix] In 2015, Southeast Asia saw one of the worst, most prolonged period of haze. The haze spread to Malaysia, Singapore, the south of Thailand and the Philippines.[x]  India also suffers from polluted air, mostly due to its major cities, like Delhi, having some of the highest vehicle density per kilometers in the region.[xi]

Back to Bottled Air

What does bottled air have to do with all of this? The market is exploding in places like China, India and Southeast Asia for an innovation that could possibly tackle the smog choking many cities. There are more practical innovations, such as air purifiers which can attach to outdoor towers or bikes and suck up smog, but bottled air represents an interesting innovation in the marketplace.[xii] Pan Li, who works in Beijing states that bottled air makes her lungs “feel clean…it might just be [her] imagination, but [she’s] willing to try anything.[xiii] And she’s not the only one. Green and Clean, an Australian bottled air company plans to ship 40,000 containers a month to China.

Aethaer’s website states that they are dedicated to “[providing] clean, fresh and pure natural air in bottled form,” and that Aethaer is “collected from fresh natural air flowing over a range of prime locations from fertile lush pastures and wild untouched meadows, to wind-kissed hilltops and heavenly snow-capped mountains.”[xiv] This might sound wonderful and amazing, but in reality, “an individual requires a minimum of eight to ten packed bottles every minute to breathe.”[xv] So why are people buying bottled air? Fortunately, many are buying it as gag gifts or as Leo De Watts stated, as collectibles. But there are many people, like Pan Li, families with children, athletes, and business executives alike, that genuinely think bottled air is the answer for all of the problems. Whether or not they’re right or wrong, companies are making millions of dollars because hundreds of thousands of people are buying bottled air.

Jasmine Pope is a second year law student at the University of Baltimore. She graduated from Towson University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science, with a minor in History. Jasmine is extremely interested in and passionate about international human rights, particular the rights of women and children. She also participated in the Summer Study Abroad Program in Aberdeen, Scotland. She has also studied abroad in Benalmádena, Spain. Currently, she serves as the Secretary for the International Law Society. Jasmine is currently a member of the Inter-American Human Rights Moot Court Team. Jasmine is also a Staff Editor for the Journal of International Law and works for the Law Office of Hayley Tamburello.

[i] Javier Hernandez and Emily Feng, “Selling Air (a.k.a. the Idea They Thought of Next)” October 31, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/world/what-in-the-world/china-bottled-air-pollution.html.

[ii] Javier Hernandez and Emily Feng, “Selling Air (a.k.a. the Idea They Thought of Next)” October 31, 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/world/what-in-the-world/china-bottled-air-pollution.html.

[iii] http://www.who.int/topics/air_pollution/en/.

[iv] http://www.who.int/gho/phe/en/.

[v] http://www.who.int/phe/health_topics/outdoorair/en/.

[vi] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2016/air-pollution-rising/en/.

[vii] “What is China doing to tackle its air pollution?” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-35351597.

[viii] https://priceonomics.com/why-is-the-pollution-so-bad-in-beijing/.

[ix] “What is China doing to tackle its air pollution?” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-35351597.

[x] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34265922.

[xi] http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/delhi-s-air-pollution-bad-other-cities-not-far-behind-pollution-watchdog/story-NBQSt0XGUuUrX9eDjOOlaN.html.

[xii] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/world/what-in-the-world/china-bottled-air-pollution.html.

[xiii] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/01/world/what-in-the-world/china-bottled-air-pollution.html.

[xiv] http://www.aethaer.com/about.

[xv] http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/fyi-delhi-bottled-air-being-sold-china-52290.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Does the Paris Climate Summit have the Potential for a Real Response to Climate Change?

Natalie Krajinovic

In sum, yes. The Geneva Climate Conference in February 2015 saw the Member States of the United Nations aim to achieve positive environmental policy change. The Conference saw the UN make major headway with a formal draft agreement that would be the source of negotiation for the 2015 Paris Summit.[1] The formal draft agreement is a substantive step following general affirmations of climate reform policy made at the 2014 UN Climate Summit.[2] The UN seems poised to strengthen the world’s attention on environmental matters with this draft agreement. The draft agreement builds upon negotiations that occurred during the 2014 Lima Climate Change Conference. The final agreement, which includes a focus on “mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology and capacity-building,” is set to be reached in Paris at the end of 2015 and should come into effect in 2020.[3] What makes these environmental initiatives distinct from the UN’s past attempts at an environmental framework is the collective interest in reaching emission level reductions.

wcs2015 header-0

The draft agreement currently states that the parties are “[g]ravely concerned by the IPCC’s [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] finding in its Fifth Assessment Report that it is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”[4] This clear statement regarding the severity of the state of climate change demonstrates the UN’s seriousness in combating drastic environmental change. The draft agreement also states that the parties recognize “that climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and thus requires to be urgently addressed by all Parties.”[5] It is evident that even though the parties are still in negotiation stages, the occurrence of climate change is no longer debatable, and instead, is a reality that the international community must now confront.

Between March and June of this year, individual countries will articulate their emission reduction plans.[6] Once individual countries outline their targeted plans and efforts for emission reduction, the viability of the current draft agreement will be evaluated. Through this formal draft agreement, the hope is that the increase of the average global surface temperature is no more than 2 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels, to avoid dangerous climate change.[7] These aggressive targets mean that individual states must act nimbly with their individual responses to climate change. It is insufficient to rest upon general obligations of emissions reductions. Rather, now is the opportunity for Member States to announce specific and realistic environmental protection action.

FRANCE-GOVERNMENT-UN-CLIMATE

Article 2 of the draft agreement is purported to outline the objective of the convention. The viability of the current draft agreement may be undermined with the repeated language of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities” in all three options for Article 2.[8] This emphasis on separate responsibilities based upon a Member State’s independent capabilities suggests that how emission levels will be reduced will not involve uniform action.

Although the agreement is still in the drafting stage, the global community appears to be gaining momentum in combating climate change. The goal is for the formal draft agreement to reach finalized content and text through the year, with negotiations occurring at the Climate Change Conference in Bonn in June, in addition ministerial-level meetings throughout the year.[9] This ongoing work towards a final formal environmental protection convention is promise that the 2015 Paris Summit will result in a viable agreement that unites UN member states in responding to climate change.

Natalie Krajinovic is a University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. candidate (’15), with a concentration in Business Law. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts in English and East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto, St. George. Natalie has always had an interest in international law and policy. While studying at the University of Toronto, she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Toronto Globalist, an international relations magazine with chapters across the globe. She currently serves as the President of the International Law Society and as the Comments Editor for the Journal of International Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Natalie is also a law clerk for John H. Denick & Associates, P.A., a business law firm in downtown Baltimore and is an intern with International Rights Advocates in Washington, D.C.

[1] UN agrees draft text for Paris climate summit, BBC News (Feb. 13, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31456369.

[2] Natalie Krajinovic, The Climate Summit 2014 – The Best of Intentions, But Missed the Mark, Ius Gentium (Sept. 28, 2014), https://ubaltciclfellows.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/climate-summit-missed-the-mark/.

[3] Governments Agree the Negotiating Text for the Paris Climate Agreement, UN Climate Change Newsroom (Feb. 13, 2015), http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/governments-agree-the-negotiating-text-for-the-paris-climate-agreement/.

[4] Negotiating Text, Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, ADP 2-8, Agenda Item 3 (Feb. 12, 2015), http://unfccc.int/files/bodies/awg/application/pdf/negotiating_text_12022015@2200.pdf.

[5] Id.

[6] UN agrees draft text for Paris climate summit, BBC News (Feb. 13, 2015), http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31456369.

[7] Id.

[8] Negotiating Text, Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, ADP 2-8, Agenda Item 3 (Feb. 12, 2015), http://unfccc.int/files/bodies/awg/application/pdf/negotiating_text_12022015@2200.pdf.

[9] Governments Agree the Negotiating Text for the Paris Climate Agreement, UN Climate Change Newsroom (Feb. 13, 2015), http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/governments-agree-the-negotiating-text-for-the-paris-climate-agreement/.


1 Comment

The Climate Summit 2014 – The Best of Intentions, But Missed the Mark

Natalie Krajinovic

The Climate Summit 2014 was held on September 23, 2014 at the UN Headquarters in New York City.

The UN Climate Summit commenced last week in New York City, coinciding with Climate Week. The heightened attention brought to last week’s events echoes serious concerns involving the environment and international obligations. These events are indicative of the growing attention paid to states’ relationship with the environment, yet what is lacking from these events is substantive reform that will have a lasting, positive impact on the environment. 

There have been a large number of demonstrations and rallies prior to the UN Climate Summit, urging heads of states to take more stringent action to prevent climate change. The People’s Climate March “ . . . campaign[ed] for curbs on carbon emissions, ahead of the UN climate summit in New York . . . In Manhattan, organisers said some 310,000 people joined a march that was also attended by UN chief Ban Ki-moon. Earlier, huge demonstrations took place in Australia and Europe.”[1] These global demonstrations have involved more than 600,000 people, with the rallies in New York accounting for more than half of the global demonstrators.[2]

601741-ki-moon

Despite the public outcry for environmental reform, critics of climate change conferences have urged for stronger action by states, instead of general good-faith obligations to manage climate change. “Underneath the overheated rhetoric [of the Summit] and the U.N. platitudes about acting together, the signs of failure are already apparent. The original intent of the summit was to put world leaders on the spot . . . Instead, the leaders that came were let off the hook . . . [as] they are only expected to submit their proposals by March next year” before the next summit in Paris.[3] Critics are ultimately demanding stronger state response to climate change, but have yet to see quantitative results.

International law, by nature, is often difficult to bridge with domestic law and environmental law, in particular, poses many enforcement challenges. For example, states are not necessarily required to enforce environmental protection law within their domestic jurisdiction unless they give credence to international environmental treaties. Furthermore, the limited use of judicial enforcement for international environmental law means that enforcement is problematic.[4] Ultimately, the faulty enforcement of international law allows for the inconsistent implementation of environmental law reform.

Alternative renewable energy sources should be promoted in any new environmental protection reform.

This particular UN Climate Change Summit initially appeared to have a different tone from climate change conferences in the past. Attending states have affirmatively acknowledged the rising emissions levels and other environmental deteriorations and have vocalized the need for more stringent reform. For example, China pledged for the first time to take strong action against climate change as result of its emissions levels (the world’s highest) peaking in the near future.[5] Yet, the recent crises of the rise of IS,[6] tensions between Ukraine and Russia,[7] and the West African Ebola epidemic have overshadowed the importance of environmental protections.

Despite the seriousness of these global events, the Summit was the largest meeting of world leaders on climate change.[8] The aim is now for global leaders to reconvene in Paris in 2015 to assemble an agreement specifically addressing environmental concerns.[9] Yet, when we look at the effectiveness of this year’s Summit, there is much to be desired in terms of a stringent framework specifically targeting environmental protection. Robert Orr, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, stated that “[w]e now need a meaningful, universal climate agreement.”[10] Such a climate agreement is the missing tool needed to enforce consistent and qualitative environmental protection standards.

Action_Area_Cities

Part of the issue regarding the global acceptance of environmental protection agreement involves states’ priority of having such a treaty. Wealthy nations that are ranked “very high” according to the UN Human Development Index have ranked environmental protection as number nine out of sixteen in a list of societal measures.[11] Poorer nations ranked as “low” according to the UN Human Development Index have ranked environmental protection as last in a list of the same societal measures.[12] These two statistics bring up worrying implications. First, wealthy nations still ranked environmental protection relatively low, indicating their sluggish interest in environmental preservation. Second, poorer nations are simply unable to afford the costly and intensive measures needed to reduce emissions. Ultimately, the disparity in wealth indicates the wide-ranging difference in environmental protection interest – those who can financially do something about the problem have no interest in doing anything.

Arguably, the best outcome for this Summit would have resulted in a stringent frameworks for pollution and emissions regulation agreed to by all participants. International environmental law, like many areas of international law, relies heavily upon the use of international convention, treaties and customary norms as a method of governance.[13] This disconnect between priorities only further strengthens the argument that the global community as a whole must respond to climate change. Poorer nations simply cannot afford to alter their behavior to allow for environmental protections. Wealthy nations, however, have the capacity to not only develop their own environmental standards, but assist these developing nations in reforming their environmental policy. It is only through this wide-reaching commitment that environmental protection reform will occur.

 

Natalie Krajinovic is a University of Baltimore School of Law J.D. candidate (’15), with a concentration in Business Law. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Arts in English and East Asian Studies from the University of Toronto, St. George. Natalie has always had an interest in international law and policy. While studying at the University of Toronto, she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Toronto Globalist, an international relations magazine with chapters across the globe. She currently serves as the President of the International Law Society and as the Comments Editor for the Journal of International Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. Natalie is also a law clerk for John H. Denick & Associates, P.A., a business law firm in downtown Baltimore.

[1] Laura Westbrook, Climate change summit: Global rallies demand action, BBC News (Sept. 21, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-29301969.

[2] Id.

[3] Rupert Darwall, The Air Comes Out of the Climate Change Talks, Real Clear Politics (Sept. 24, 2014), http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/09/24/the_air_comes_out_of_the_climate_change_talks_124087.html.

[4] Omar E. García-Bolívar, Lack of Judicial Independence and Its Impact on Transnational and International Litigation, 18 L. & Bus. Rev. Am. 29, 32 (2012) (citing John S. Baker Jr. & Agustín Parise, Conflicts in International Tort Litigation Between U.S. and Latin American Courts, 42 U. Miami Inter-Am. L. Rev. 1, 24 (2010) (“Countries are not compelled to enforce foreign judgments but do so as a matter of comity, which “[r]ests on the principle of reciprocity which is generally the basis for relations among sovereign nations.”).

[5] UN climate summit: China pledges emissions action, BBC News (Sept. 24, 2014), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-29334807.

[6] Ryan Crocker, Airstrikes on ISIS Should Expand to Syria, N.Y. Times (Aug. 22, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/08/22/should-the-us-work-with-assad-to-fight-isis/airstrikes-on-isis-should-expand-to-syria.

[7] David M. Herszenhorn, Ukrainian President Sets Sights on Closer E.U. Ties, N.Y. Times (Sept. 25, 2014), http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/26/world/europe/petro-poroshenko-ukraine-eu.html?ref=world.

[8] After the Summit, planners look toward Lima, then Paris, Climate Summit 2014 (Sept. 25, 2014), http://www.un.org/climatechange/summit/2014/09/summit-planners-look-toward-lima-paris/.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Brad Plumer, Why rich countries worry more about global warming than poor ones, Vox (Sept. 23, 2014), http://www.vox.com/2014/9/23/6835285/why-rich-countries-worry-more-about-climate-change-than-poor-ones.

[12] Id.

[13] International Law: Cases and Materials 1486 (Lori F. Damrosch, et al. eds.) (5th ed. 2009).