Ch. 12: Progress and Prospects


          Some additional perspective on the last forty years of environmental law is provided in Robert V. Percival, Look Backward, Looking Forward: The Next 40 Years of Environmental Law, 43 Envt’l L. Rep. 10492, 10492-10495 (2013). 


         Some additional perspective on the future of environmental law is provided in Robert V. Percival, Look Backward, Looking Forward: The Next 40 Years of Environmental Law, 43 Envt’l L. Rep. 10492, 10495-10500 (2013).  This article discusses Al Gore’s book “The Future”, the 2052 Project, and the impact of emerging technologies, such as driverless cars, on the future of environmental law.

        As global environmental law continues to develop, new public and private partnerships are forming and many companies are launching their own initiatives to “green” their operations.  Here are three examples.

        Burger King delighted environmentalists by announcing that it would discontinue purchasing palm oil from Indonesia’s Sinar Mas group in response to an audit assessing the impact of the company’s behavior on orangutan habitat and tropical rain forests.  The audit was discussed on this website in a blog post on August 15, 2010. Curiously, Cargill, another major global agribusiness, cited the same audit in refusing to cut its ties to Sinar Mas companies, which are controlled by the Widjaja family.  Cargill noted that Sinar Mas has pledged to join the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and to obtain its certification for all its palm oil operations by 2015.  Burger King joins Unilever, Nestle and Kraft in cutting off Sinar Mas as a supplier.  Anthony Deutsch, Burger King Axes Palm Oil Supplier, Financial Times, Sept. 4/5, 2010, at 10. On September 8, 2010, the Unilever Corporation announced that it had made a multi-million dollar investment in Solazyme, Inc., a U.S. company that harvests oil from algae, as a way of moving away from use of palm oil in its food and consumer products.  Unilever says that it may take three to seven more years before algal oil could be used as an ingredient in its products, but it is convinced of its potential.  Paul Sonne, To Wash Hands of Palm Oil Unilever Embraces Algae, Wall St. J., Sept. 8, 2010, at B1.

        On September 7, 2010, the Danish shipping company Maersk announced that it would voluntarily switch away from low-cost, dirty bunker fuel to low sulfur fuel when its ships berth in Hong Kong. The move will cost the company an extra $1 million per year during its 850 annual port calls in Hong Kong, but it will greatly reduce air pollution from the ships.  Cleaner fuel already is required for ships visiting many European ports and similar requirements will take effect in U.S. and Canadian ports in 2012.  Asia is moving much more slowly on the issue and Maersk hopes its Hong Kong initiative, which it said was taken in response to calls from the Hong Kong NGO Civic Exchange, will help spur further action. Bettina Wassener, Maersk to Use Cleaner Fuel in its Hong Kong Shipping, N.Y. Times, Sept. 8, 2010, at B10.

        In late September 2010 the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves was announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, joined by representatives of the UN Foundation, several nations and many NGOs. The initiative seeks to replace 100 million traditional stoves that are widely used for cooking and heating in households across the developing world with affordable, efficient, environmentally-friendly models by 2020.  The World Health Organization estimates that pollution and safety hazards from existing cookstoves contribute to 2 million premature deaths annually in the developing world. The stoves also are a significant source of black carbon contributing to global warming and climate change.  The Global Alliance will seek to establish manufacturing facilities in developing countries to make the stoves readily available at low cost while spurring job growth in development countries.  The initiative represents another example of the development of global environmental policy outside traditional government regulatory structures.  Products like cookstoves that are used by individuals have not been extensively regulated around the world, yet they can represent highly significant sources of environmental problems. By not giving away the stoves for free, the Alliance has indicated that it has learned from past mistakes where free distribution of stoves led consumers not to value them very highly.