2017 Year in Review - Environmental Law

By Xiaoyi Wang

Picture: Globe License: Public Domain

In 2017, because of the changes in administration, environmental enforcement policies around the world have changed.
United States of America
In the United States, the Trump Administration has brought uncertainty to the US enforcement picture. All enforcement constituencies (state agencies and environmental groups) are still assessing what roles and strategies to take as directional shifts at the federal level will likely influence responses by states and NGOs. The shift of administration led to EPA enforcement moving back to the "traditional" environmental programs – air, water, waste.
European Union
The European Commission has conducted a broad EU Environmental implementation review (EIR). The EU also adopted new rules (Dec. 2016) for member states to reduce air pollution by primary particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia and volatile organic components. In addition, the EU has set out environmental plans and proposed initiatives to achieve their 2020 goals.
China has implanted tougher environmental policies in 2017, a great expansion under President Xi’s “War on Pollution” initiative. In 2017, China also shut 27 coal mines in Shanxi and shutdown responsible corporate actors around China to control air pollution.
The Paris Climate Agreement
The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020. President Trump announced in June that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The Trump administration has made it abundantly clear that fighting climate change is, at best, a low priority.  Many are unsure whether the Paris Agreement framework will still work if the United States indeed withdraws from the agreement. In accordance with Article 28 of the Paris Agreement, the earliest possible effective withdrawal date by the United States cannot be before November 4, 2020, four years after the Agreement came into effect in the United States and one day after the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (the Montreal Protocol)
The Montreal Protocol celebrated its thirty years on September 16, 2017. After thirty years of enforcement, the treaty has been ratified or accepted by all 197 UN member states. As one of the most successful and effective environmental treaties ever negotiated and implemented, the Montreal Protocol has helped reduce the depletion of the ozone layer by about 20 percent from 2005 to 2016.