Environmental Governance and Global Warming: Looking at China + Ourselves

Today, VJEL and the U.S.-China Partnership for Environmental Law present “China’s Environmental Governance: Global Challenges and Comparative Solutions.” The program will discuss “current and prospective mechanisms for addressing pressing local, national, and global environmental issues including climate change and energy needs in the 21st century.”

For China, energy consumption and environmental issues are deeply related to “development” and discussions about the former should not happen in a vacuum. Instead, the energy crisis and remedies for environmental issues must consider the Chinese development trajectory.

This begs the questions: what does development mean and what does development look like for China?  If you’re a regular follower of the Cornell Library Blog, you know where this is headed…let’s check out the collection. At the same time, please stop by the library to see the book display to compliment the VJEL symposium.

Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize winner in Economics, and author of Development as Freedom, offers a perspective on development beyond the standard economic parameters. Instead, Sen insists that development is the removal of unfreedoms, which leave people with “little choice and little opportunity of exercising their reasoned agency.” The removal of such unfreedoms, Sen asserts, is constitutive of development.  Sen concentrates on the roles and interconnectedness of freedoms like economic opportunities, political freedoms, social facilities, transparency guarantees, and protective security. HD75.S455 1999

China’s Limits to Growth: Greening State and Society edited by Peter Ho and Eduard B. Vermeer is a collection of diverse essays including “Whither the Car? China’s Automobile Industry and Cleaner Vehicle Technologies,”  “A Market Road to Sustainable Agriculture? Ecological Agriculture, Green Food and Organic Agriculture in China,” and “Environment and Modernity in Transitional China: Frontiers of Ecological Modernization.”                  ENV COLL  HC 430.E5 C44 2006

China’s Dilemma: Economic Growth, the Environment and Climate Change is another collection of essays divided into three parts. The parts include: “Economic growth: determinants and prospects,” the “impact of environment degradation and climate change,” and “energy use, the environment and future trends.” The book is peppered with tables and charts exploring everything from job characteristics, Chinese energy output by fuel, and growth of volumes of Chinese imports and exports.                                               ENV COLL HC 427.95.C4557 2008

An evaluation and discussion about China’s development is certainly important—and perhaps even more, is a reevaluation of the United States consumption, it’s growth and it’ s own development trajectory. The impact of global warming and the energy crisis are not simply bound to geopolitical parameters, but instead affect us all. In this way, it is important that the world’s largest polluters of our air and water commons are held accountable—perhaps before we look at China, we should look at ourselves.

To explore the legal implications of development, try a subject search in JULIEN for “Law and Economic Development.”