Saturday, June 30, 2007

The End of Gitmo?



Well perhaps not quite. But yesterday’s decision by the US Supreme Court, revoking the Court’s decision from April this year on the right of detainees at the Guantanamo Detention Centre to have hebaeus corpus cases heard in Federal Courts, can hardly be underestimated. The decision follows a prolonged battle in US courts over the rights of Guantanamo detainees under US law and the legality of the military tribunals set up by the US administration to prosecute so-called “enemy combatants”.

Under US law enacted as part of the “war against terror” prisoners in US detention classed as “unlawful enemy combatants” can only be trialed by the special military tribunals set up by the US administration. The military tribunals operate, as the name implies, in the military framework and curb a number of proceedings known from the civil courts. However, this was challenged in February this year by one of the detainees awaiting trial at the Guantanamo camp in an Appeals Court in the District of Columbia. The Appeals Courts upheld the law – a ruling that was then appealed to the Supreme Court in April this year. In its April decision the Supreme Court rejected the detainee’s appeal. It is this decision that has now been reversed by the Supreme Court and the Court is likely to instigate proceedings in its coming term in October. At the centre of the coming proceedings will, inter alia, be the question of whether the institution of habeas corpus covers foreigners held outside US territory.

The turn in opinion comes as the former Secretary of State, Colin Powell, reiterated his call for the closure of the Guantanamo Detention Centre and the abolition of the system of military tribunals. Recently President Bush did himself hint at the possibility of closing the camp. The closure of the camp, which has become a disgrace to the Bush administration alongside the Abu Graib prison scandal, would certainly be a welcomed change, albeit a belated one. Provided of course, the Bush administration does not close the Guantanamo camp simply to boost its programme of extraordinary rendition as a way of dealing with foreign prisoners.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"I will do my utmost"


Although this is a blog for legal research, yesterday’s big news from the world of politics merits some attention among the posts of international law, US health care and valuable tips on publishing academic articles.

Yesterday, Gordon Brown took the reign, finally some would say, as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Though the date for Blair’s departure was known for quite a while, yesterday’s change of leader was rightly awaited in anticipation. While Blair swiftly jetted off to the Middle East in an attempt to remedy his tarnished reputation in light of the failed Iraq invasion, his wife Cherie Blair wasted no time in taking a swipe at the UK press (and thus following her husband’s recent, and arguably well-deserved, shot at the same press corps), Brown wasted no time in forming his first Cabinet. Brown’s Cabinet contains a few interesting faces in, for example, the youngest Foreign Secretary since 1977 David Milibrand (who is joined in the Cabinet by his brother Ed as Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), the first female Home Officer, Jacqui Smith as well as Aberdeen University, School of Law, graduate Alistair Devling as Chancellor.

As Gordon Brown emphasised that he would try his utmost while arguing for bipartisanship, it will be interesting to see if the well-known tug of war between the Blair and Brown camps within the Labour party leads to a significant change of politics. In particular on the area of foreign relations and civil liberties a change is most welcome. At the same time, the unfolding of Brown’s overt EU scepticism will be an interesting performce to follow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

American SiCKO


In his latest film, SiCKO, Michael Moore, the acclaimed film maker examines the ailing US health care industry. Rather than examining the challenges of the nearly 1 in 5 Americans who are uninsured, Moore focuses instead on the 250 million Americans who have health insurance coverage. Even those with insurance are not guaranteed health care as evidenced by the cases of several “ordinary Americans” whose lives have been dramatically and often tragically affected by the bureaucratic red tape of the insurance industry. Moore profiles a cross-section of tactics utilized by the for-profit insurance industry including denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions and failure to secure pre-authorization for emergency services.


Moore squarely places the blame for the broken state of American health care at the feet of the US government; attributing its causes to two factors: profit and fear. First and perhaps more simply, health care goods and services have historically been treated as a commodity within the US. Under market forces, those who can afford to pay receive care, while those who can’t, simply don’t. As health care costs and the incidence of chronic diseases have risen, the number of individuals able to afford and/or qualify for health insurance coverage has begun to shrink. Secondly, and more to the point Moore makes later on in the film regarding values is the question of fear. Moore opines that American health care consumers are afraid of losing choice over their health care providers and long waiting times for procedures. He also suggests that American physicians are fearful of losing the quality of life guaranteed by their coveted six figure incomes. Finally, Moose censures the US government for its use of “red scare” tactics to convince the public that a government operated health system represents a slippery slope into a broader socialist state where the core American value of individual liberty is degraded in favor of the collective. By use of anecdotes Moore picks these arguments apart one by one. He travels to Canada, the United Kingdom, and France gathering tales of satisfied patients, well-paid doctors and even conservative politicians who advocate for government administered health care. While Moore’s comparative analysis offers a mere surface level examination of these systems the fact that each of them offers free universal health care serves as a striking contrast to the pay to play system operating in the richest country in the world. Coupled with the fact that the US health system ranks 37th globally yet spends the most money per capita on health care the viewer is left with the feeling that even for those that can afford it, the American consumer is not getting what she pays for.

Unlike his previous films Moore manages to restrain himself from partisan showboating until the final chapter of the film during which he takes several 9/11 rescue workers to receive health care at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Deterred only slightly by the land mines surrounding the base, Moore leads his crew away from GITMO to mainland Cuba where many health outcomes are better than in the United States. This slap in the face to US policy drives home Moore’s main message. If Cuba, a developing country can provide free comprehensive quality health care to its citizens, why can’t the US?


As Moore cogently points out many public services in the US are operated as social programs. The police force, the fire department, the public library system and the postal service are all administered by government. Americans widely enjoy these benefits and perhaps most importantly do not expect these services to turn a profit.


Rather than adopting a human rights based approach to health, Moore deals with the US health care crisis as a moral dilemma, one that he suggests can only be changed by a shift in values. In addition to learning valuable lessons from the health systems of other States, the US might also take a lesson from countries who have adopted the values enshrined in international human rights documents on economic, social and cultural rights such as the right to health. After all, the legal documents underpinning the international human right to health consist precisely of the values that Moore advocates for, namely universal (accessible), available, affordable, quality health care goods and services.


The fact that the US has not ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) which includes the right to health, nor the fact that a US constitutional amendment on the right to health does not exist does not preclude Americans from demanding health care as a public good. After all, the American public expects and demands that primary education is universal and free despite the fact that there is no US constitutional right to education. Rather than a frightening descent into socialism such demands should be seen as the greatest exercise of power within a democracy.


As Moore notes, societies are often judged by how they treat their most vulnerable. In truth socialized medicine already exists on American soil in the form of Medicare for the elderly and disabled, Medicaid for the indigent poor, the Office of Veterans Affairs for former military personnel and the Indian Health Service for Native American populations. In a modern democratic society perhaps the measure by which we judge ourselves should raised so that the United States can join every other industrialized nation in accounting for the health of all of its citizens through the provision of universally free and available health care.



SiCKO will be released in US theatres on June 29. No release date has been set for the UK yet. See http://www.michaelmoore.com/sicko for more information regarding the film.



-Dabney Evans

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Does International Law Help or Hurt in Darfur?


At least 200,000 people have died in the Darfur region of Western Sudan, and perhaps another 2.5 million have been displaced. The West has been roundly criticized for failure to act. The question becomes though, how best to intervene in what is essentially a civil war, in which the Chinese and Russians are arming the Sudanese government?

There is an interesting debate going on over at Opinio Juris on whether international law promotes or impedes the process to end the bloodshed in Darfur.

Julian Ku thinks international law makes a solution to the crisis harder, not easier. As he says:

notice how international law acts in ways that make a solution to this crisis harder, not easier, to achieve. An effective outside intervention by Western military powers (e.g. the U.S., U.K., France) is probably illegal (say most international lawyers) unless China and Russia consent via the Security Council or Sudan consents (don't hold your breath). So we instead get a hodgepodge of limited peacekeeping forces who do not have a mandate to force an end to the conflict. Meanwhile, an effective negotiated peace agreement may still be undercut by the outstanding ICC arrest warrants for Sudan government ministers. What should a good liberal internationalist do? Nothing, I guess.


His counterpart Kevin Jon Heller acknowledges that the ICC can sometimes cause more harm than good. For example some aid workers have feared that the war crimes accusations recently made by the ICC added another hurdle to proposed deployment of UN troops. But Heller questions the assumption:

that the West would take more affirmative steps to resolve crises like the one in Sudan if only international law did not (arguably) prevent it form doing so. ...Put aside the fact that the Sudanese government and the rebel groups showed no signs of being able to reach "an effective negotiated peace agreement" in the three years before the Security Council referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC. What evidence is there that the U.S., U.K., or France would intervene militarily in Darfur but for the supposed illegality of such intervention?...Consider, for example, the U.N.-African peacekeeping force that the Sudan approved for Darfur on Monday. Though understandably skeptical of its ability to end the conflict, Julian admits that the peacekeeping force is at least "something." As it turns out, however, the mission may never get off the ground — because the U.S. owes the U.N. more than $1 billion for the costs of global peacekeeping...


Harsh words, but perhaps well-deserved. The US always seems to have trouble paying its UN dues, even though it is the largest contributor to the UN budget. Unfortunately many conservatives use the UN budget issue to pressure the world body. It should be noted as well that the Sudanese government went back and forth on whether to allow a UN force back in 2006 which never came to fruition. Not being an international law expert as some on here are (and perhaps I'm a bit naive), I'm more inclined to agree with Heller on this one. International law seems to generally be what states are willing to do in practice. If the US was able to justify its invasion of Iraq, I see no reason why it couldn't exert similar pressure for the Darfur situation.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thanks

On behalf of Jernej I would like to thank everybody who came along and took part in the Law Section of the CASS conference this year. It was a fun event largely because the presentations were excellent. We had a lot of interesting topics to discuss on things such as soft law and human rights, so if folks want to continue the discussion, the comments here are a great place to do that.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Law Section Timetable for the CASS Moving Forward Conference

MOVING FORWARD

CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

Wednesday 13 June 2007

08:45 - 09:15 Registration, tea & coffee (Linklater Rooms, Elphinstone Hall)

09:15 – 10.30 Opening Plenary Session 1

The PhD Experience

10.30 – 11.00 Tea & Coffee (Linklater Rooms, Elphinstone Hall)

11:00 Start of Law Sessions

Welcome address, prof. Christopher W. Gane, Vice-principal of University of Aberdeen

11:20 - 13:00 Morning Panel Law 1 Session (New Kings Lecture Room 10) – Trademarks and Trade in Europe, Moderator: Gerd Koehler, University of Aberdeen

Jamil Ammar, University of Edinburgh (Scotland)

Trademarks Efficiency or Economic Efficiency? The Interaction between Law and Technology

Iona Marinova, University of Aberdeen (Scotland)

Bifurcation of parallel trade regulation in the European community. The legal status of parallel trade from a trademark point of view and the proposition for a move to a rule of international exhaustion

Oana Andreaa Stefan, University College Dublin (Ireland)

Half Rights and Half Obligations? A Study of the Way in Which the European Courts Deal with Soft Law Instruments in the Competition Law Sector

13:00 - 14:00 **Lunch** (Linklater Rooms)

14:00 - 15:30 Law Session 2 (New Kings Lecture Room 10) - International Law and Terrorism Moderator: Dr. David Jenkins, lecturer, School of Law, University of Aberdeen,

Christian Henderson, University of Nottingham (England)

The 2006 National Security Strategy of the United States of America: The Pre-emptive Use of Force and the Persistent Advocate

Anton Anton Skjernaa, University of Aarhus (Denmark)

The Use of Legal Referencing in Framing Efforts by Human Rights NGOs--Pre and Post 9/11

Thi Lan Anh Tran, University of Leeds (England)

Vietnam's accession to the WTO: Roadmap of a Socialist Legal Development

15:30 - 16:00 Tea & coffee break (Linklater Rooms)

16:00 – 17:30 Law Session 3, New Kings Lecture Room 10,: International Criminal Justice, Moderator: Jernej Letnar Černič, University of Aberdeen

Aisling O'Sullivan, Irish Centre of Human Rights, National University of Ireland, Galway

A Refining Process -- Applying the concept of complementarity to universal criminal jurisdiction and the practice of Spanish courts

Diana Sankey, University of Kent (England)

Starving for Justice: The Possible Emergence of a Concept of Famine Crimes within the Context of the Establishment of the International Criminal Court

Shivon Byamukama, Glasgow Caledonian University (Scotland)

Prosecution of the Rwandan Genocide

Free bus to evening reception

18.30 – Onwards Evening Reception, Wild Boar, Belmont St, Aberdeen


MOVING FORWARD

CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

Thursday 14 June 2007

08.45 – 9.00 Registration, tea & coffee (Linklater Rooms)

09:00 – 10:30 Law Session 4 (New Kings Lecture Room 10) - Human Rights Law and Environmental Justice, Moderator: Derek Fincham, University of Aberdeen

Elaine Webster, University of Edinburgh (Scotland)

The Concept of Human Dignity and the Interpretation of 'Degrading Treatment' under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights

Alessia Vacca, University of Aberdeen (Scotland)

Rights of Minority Languages in Europe

Ole W. Pedersen, University of Aberdeen (Scotland)

Always look on the Right Side of Life: The Environmental Rights and the Environment

10:30 – 11:00 Tea and Coffee Break

11:00 - 13:00 Law Session 4 – International Human Rights Law, New Kings Lecture Room 10, Moderator: Jernej Letnar Černič, University of Aberdeen

Sam Condry, University of Stirling (Scotland)

The Legal Implications of the United Nation's Disability Convention for the Participation of Disabled People in Sport in Scotland

Dabney Evans, University of Aberdeen (Scotland)

Interpreting the Right to Health Under the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination

Eman Naboush, Glasgow Caledonian University (Scotland)

Bodily Injury from a Medical/Legal Perspective

Yvonne Rigby, University of Kent (England)

Law, Politics and Society: Contextualising Socio-economic Rights in the South African Constitution

13:00 - 14:00 ** Lunch ** (Linklater Rooms)

14:00 - 15:30 Law Panel Session 5, New Kings Lecture Room 10, The Intersection between Law, Art, and Communities, Moderator Derek Fincham, University of Aberdeen

Jamie Grace University of Derby, (England)

Make Me an Offer I Can't Refuse: Enforcing the Fair and Forceable Sale of Previously Stolen Works of Art, Antiquities and Cultural Property

Anastasia Karandinou University of Edinburgh (Scotland)

Im-materiality: Aspects of Space

Elisa Pérez Babo, Paula Guerra and Pedro Quintela Portugal

Museums, Local development, involvement and local participation: an empirical approach to some Portuguese case studies.

15:30 - 16:00 Tea & coffee break (Linklater Rooms)

16:00 - 17:30 Plenary Session 3: WORK

Monday, June 11, 2007

Trouble in the Cradle of Civilization



Things are looking increasingly grim in Iraq these days, with the US considering arming Sunni groups that once attacked coalition forces. Soon after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, western journalists visited the Iraqi Museum in Baghdad and reported incorrectly that 170,000 objects were stolen from the museum. More careful reporting soon accurately placed that number far lower, and current estimates seem to indicate that a still alarming 3,000 objects are still missing, with about 47 main exhibition artifacts missing.

Thus I always maintain a healthy bit of skepticism when articles come out detailing the loss of archaeological context and heritage in Iraq. The article last Friday by Simon Jenkins in the Guardian titled "In Iraq's four-year looting frenzy, the allies have become the vandals"even viewed skeptically reveals some very troubling things about the way archaeological sites are treated by coalition forces.

The catalyst for the discussion was a presentation by Abbas al-Hussaini, the head of Iraq's board of antiquities and heritage to the British Museum. He detailed a number of disturbing things. The former head of the antiquities board in Iraq, Donny George, left for a teaching position in New York, fearing for his life. Today the national museum "is not open but shut... Its doors are bricked up, it is surrounded by concrete walls and its exhibits are sandbagged. Even the staff cannot get inside." A 10th century caravenserai of Khan al-Raba was used to explode captured weapons. Looters are better armed than the Iraqi forces seeking to protect the ancient monuments. Two 4,000 year-old cities, Isin and Shurnpak, have been demolished by looting pits. The 11 teams Hussaini has organized travel the countryside attempting to retrieve any artifacts the looters have left behind. Even muslim sites are subject to destruction, with a number of bombings of mosques from the 10th and 11th centuries

When I was in Istanbul in May, I saw some of the glazed bricks from the Ishtar gate leading to Babylon, and they are stunning. The lion image above was very impressive. For me then perhaps the most disturbing claims detail the destruction taking place at the ancient city of Babylon:

Hussaini confirmed a report... on America's conversion of Nebuchadnezzar's great city of Babylon into the hanging gardens of Halliburton. This meant a 150-hectare camp for 2,000 troops. In the process the 2,500-year-old brick pavement to the Ishtar Gate was smashed by tanks and the gate itself damaged. The archaeology-rich subsoil was bulldozed to fill sandbags, and large areas covered in compacted gravel for helipads and car parks. Babylon is being rendered archaeologically barren.


Despite some unnecessary snarking by Jenkins here, the destruction at Babylon is a grave tragedy. He does conveniently overlook some facts though. The coalition forces only seem to be continuing the destruction and disdain Saddam Hussein had for the site when he was in power. This slide show taken by US Marine Gunnery Sergeant Daniel O'Connell in 2003 shows the ancient city, the unfortunate modern reconstruction by Hussein on top of the archaeological site, and the modern palace he built where marines first stayed. The colonel in charge of the site apologized last year, and UNESCO officials are even considering developing the place into a tourist attraction at some point.

It seems very unfortunate that coalition forces, in the face of the looting of so many sites, should have blundered so badly at Babylon, which is in one of the most secure regions of Iraq. The Geneva Convention dictates that forces should treat opposing cultural heritage with care. Also, though the US and UK have failed to implement the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict(because it might restrict their ability to use nuclear arms), they notionally abide by its tenets.

The US is doing a good job of policing its antiquities market, as a Fox News cameraman was arrested for smuggling Iraqi antiquities into the country recently. The UK also has legislation preventing the import of Iraqi antiquities. Jenkins gets a final jab in at the Department of Culture Media and Sport which seems far more concerned with the upcoming London Olympics than the illicit cultural property market. I wonder if the £400,000 recently spent on the unfortunate mascot would have been better served policing the antiquities market. The Met's Art and Antiquities squad has only 3 full time investigators, and is in jeopardy of further budget cuts. But only so much can be done when provenance or a title history is not routinely given during transactions. As long as the market is hidden from view, looters will continue to find purchasers for their ill-gotten gains.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Forthcoming Articles

Publish or perish. That's the conventional wisdom at least. Publishing shorter articles is a terrific way for junior academics to promote yourself and your research, and making forthcoming and accepted articles available electronically is a shrewd way to get comments.

If you cite important scholars in your field, its also a good idea to send them an email/letter letting them know you have a forthcoming article, and that you agreed or disagreed with their position.

I've added a link at the right where you can view papers from contributors to the Legal Research Society on the Social Science Research Network. If others have articles available on SSRN, please let me know and we can add more links.

You can read my forthcoming article which will be published in the Cardozo Arts and Entertainment Law Journal titled "Why Federal Criminal Penalties for Dealing in Illicit Cultural Property are Ineffective, and a Pragmatic Alternative". Here is an abstract:

I hope to contribute to the increasing legal scholarship involving cultural property. There have been many articles on this subject in recent years, and I add to the discourse in two important ways. First, I attempt to unpack the values at work in US federal criminal penalties for buying and selling illicit cultural property. The illicit trade in cultural property may be the third largest behind narcotics and weapons. I look at the various stakeholders which formulate cultural property policy and look at why their fundamental differences of opinion are producing an ineffective regulatory framework. A number of recent articles have dealt with this subject, however the discussion about what the law should be doing has prevented a discussion of the practical effect of the status quo. I hope my analysis will further the debate by showing that the current criminal penalties are not producing satisfactory results.

Second, I show how a pragmatic approach to cultural property has worked well in the United Kingdom and how such an approach could be adopted in the US. This would give real effect to the federal criminal regulation of cultural property. The art and antiquities market lacks transparency at present. Until this trade begins to effectively distinguish between licit and illicit cultural objects, the theft, looting and destruction of historical sites will surely continue. I hope my discussion of the UK experience can bring attention to the illicit trade in cultural property and the criminal response in the US.

Our colleague Jernej also has an article which he has co-authored with Matej Avbelj, The Conundrum of the Piran Bay: Slovenia V. Croatia - The Case of Maritime Delimitation, forthcoming in the Journal of International Law & Policy. Here's the abstract:

Drawing borders between countries has historically been a very demanding task, often underpinned by deeply-rooted emotions that suppress the argumentative dialogue and reasoning and in too many cases has led to long-term general deterioration of relationships which may devolve into war. As the title suggests, the focal point of this paper will be a legal assessment or a legal prediction of the outcome of the maritime border delimitation dispute between Slovenia and Croatia in the northernmost part of the Adriatic Sea, namely in the Piran Bay. The paper will be structured into four parts. In the first part the authors will present the factual context of the dispute, followed by a presentation of the legal arguments that both countries have laid on the table so far. In the third hermeneutical part, these legal arguments will be applied to the factual context assessed in light of valid international law and especially the existing jurisprudence on international juridical and non-juridical bodies, including the practice of other states in similar cases. In the last part the authors will predict the outcome of the case as if they were the arbitrators or the judges of a tribunal to whom the dispute between Slovenia and Croatia will most likely eventually be referred to.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

FIFA prohibits international football matches at high altitude

Not much is usually written about international sports law, however, last months have been immensely rich in controversial cases from the many diffrent sports. It is also international football that has witnessed several troublesome developments in past weeks. Many of these developments concern recent decisions by regional and international football bodies. This post examines recent decision delivered by FIFA concerning prohibition of international footbal matches at high altitude. Let us explain firstly what FIFA is? The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is an association governed by Swiss law founded in 1904 and based in Zurich. It has 208 member football associations and its goal, enshrined in its Statutes, is the constant improvement of football. It is composed of a Congress,Executive Committee, General Secretariat and committees.

Some days ago FIFA delivered a decision prohibiting on international football matches being played at venues above altitudes of 2,500 meters claiming that it is dangerous for footballers unaccustomed to the shortage of oxygen. The ban means Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador are barred from playing in their own capitals while Peru cannot play in Cuzco, where they were thinking of staging their home qualifying matches for the next World Cup. For example, Bolivia's Stadio Hernan Siles in La Paz, is 3,600 metres above sea level, Mexico City is 2,224 above sea level, Bogotá, Colombia 2,546 and; Quito, Ecuador 2,850m, 3,399m Cusco, Peru, and La Paz Bolivia 3,600m above sea level.

Newly re-elected FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, said:

"I know there will be complaints about this, especially from South America, but we have to think of the health of the players first. It also leads to a distortion of the competition if matches are played at such a level.

"The Executive Committee have listened to a proposal from the medical committee and have decided to act because to play at above that altitude is not healthy or fair.«

It appears that such decision does not have much legitimacy and credibly regardless of any health consideration. Football matches have been played at high altitudes for a century without major conundrums. This decision reads as a very Euro-centric policy and it could be qualified as a potential form of indirect discrimination. Does this prohibition imply that FIFA could ban matches in excessive heat or cold? Some South-American representative said »Let’s not play in Africa, where it is very hot and we would have to put air conditioning in the stadiums, or in Norway because it’s too cold.” Another question is why ban was set on 2,500 meters and not on 1,500 or 2,000 meters.

One of reasons for popularity and attractiveness of football game and is that it is probably the most accessible sport of them all and it is played all over the world. Setting artificial rules does not lead anywhere. It would be interesting to examine and assess the quality medical advice on which this decision was adopted and whether playing on the high altitude can indeed lead to the unfair advantage. Practicing sports at high-altitude can be very often very beneficial for man sportsmen and sportswomen. It appears that this decision has been adopted in very hasty manner and without any consultation from affected countries. It would compelling to observe how would Swiss nation would react if the Wengen downhill race would be prohibited just because it would be to dangerous to ski from so high up in the Alps. This is just another of recent controversial decisions of international football governing bodies, which questions deeply the legitimacy and credibility of its mandate. For once Evo Morales has a point when he is saying that “He who wins at altitude, wins with dignity. He who fears altitude has no dignity.”

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Changing Tides in Bush’s Global Warming Stance





Following last week's post on the continuing US opposition to tackling global warming, it now appears that the Bush administration has had a change of heart (not that we think our posts and opinions in the Legal Research Society have anything to do with it).

On Thursday, President Bush announced plans to lead negotiations together with the world’s leading 15 greenhouse gas emitters to discuss ‘targets’ for tackling global warming by the end of 2008. The news follows strong US opposition to plans marshaled by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, supported by the majority of the G8 countries, aimed at cutting emission of greenhouse gasses by 50 per cent by 2050. So far little information is available on what President Bush has in mind but he has emphasised that any plans will, unlike the current Kyoto Protocol, include developing countries like India and China. This is in itself a welcomed initiative and alongside the change of opinion the President’s pledge bodes well for the attempt to gather international consensus on the topic.

However, the President’s ideas have by opponents been labeled as hot air. In addition, they have been accused of undermining the current negotiations headed by Ms. Merkel as well as the ones taking place under the auspices of the UN. Nevertheless, a Presidential u-turn clearly was the first thing needed in order to get the US onboard any attempt to tackle global warming. If this u-turn at the same time allows inclusion of countries like India and China it is worth praising. All the same, given US policy on the issue has thus far been one of adapting through the development of technologies, while strongly resisting any caps on emission, it remains to be seen what the President has in mind. Unless he has a panacea hidden up his sleeve it is highly unlikely that the initiative will lead to significant cuts in emissions.

In other news on the topic, the Canadian government is being sued by Friends of the Earth and Sierra Legal for not living up to its Kyoto obligations. At the same time, the Economist newspaper is this week running a special report on the tendency for businesses to go green:
http://www.economist.com/printedition/?CFID=5564525&CFTOKEN=84525984. The Economist itself, like President Bush, represents a change in opinion on the issue of global warming; from having been sceptic a few years ago to now accepting it is taking place.