Monday, March 28, 2016

Environmental Protection Agency Roundtable in Nanjing

On March 3rd, six students from the Hopkins-Nanjing Center (HNC) had the opportunity to meet with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delegation led by Acting Assistant Administrator Janet McCabe from the Office of Air and Radiation. The delegation was in Nanjing on official business, but took time to hold a roundtable discussion with "future environmental leaders” at Nanjing University, with the purpose of fostering dialogue on air and climate change issues and challenges.  A select group of students and faculty from both Nanjing University and the Hopkins-Nanjing Center were invited to attend. Participants included six students from HNC, HNC Resident Professor of Energy, Resources and Environment (ERE) Roger Raufer, as well as members of Nanjing University's School of the Environment, including Dean Bi Jun, Professor Zhang Haiyan, and other Chinese graduate students.


The EPA delegates spoke to students at length about their collaboration with Chinese counterparts on various measures to improve air quality in China. Nanjing, like many other Chinese cities, frequently suffers from bouts of moderate to severe air pollution. HNC students welcomed the EPA’s frank discussion of China’s air pollution challenges, especially because the subject is often highly sensitive and heavily politicized in Chinese political life.

“Air pollution has been one of China’s most significant environmental problems,” said Kerry Read, one of the HNC students in attendance.  “Living in China has made the pollution all the more apparent. It was great to hear about the work Ms. McCabe and her team have been a part of in recent years to address this issue.”

Air pollution is a familiar topic to students at the HNC. Many of the ERE courses offered at the Center are focused on topics like environmental protection, environmental policymaking, and energy use. Professor Raufer teaches the course “Air Pollution and Its Control” in the fall, as well as “Economic Instruments of Pollution Control” in the spring. The students who attended the roundtable discussion have all taken Professor Raufer’s classes and have also chosen ERE as their specialization.

“There is significant need for Sino-U.S. cooperation in mitigating the environmental problems faced by China and other developing nations,” explained first year master’s student Mykael Goodsell-Sootho. “The ERE courses I’ve taken thus far have allowed me to develop a more comprehensive understanding of these problems, as well as the strategies that may be employed to alleviate them.”

The roundtable discussion was an excellent opportunity for students to garner insight from experienced practitioners about the realities of working in the field of environmental protection.

“It was an invaluable chance to know EPA better and understand current U.S.-China issues,” said Cheng Huihui, a second year master’s student.

“I learned a lot about the different perspectives between Chinese and American agencies and how it affects intergovernmental cooperation,” added another student, Chen Yunjie.

Following the discussion on air pollution, Acting Assistant Administrator McCabe also welcomed an open Q&A session. Du Yufan, an HNC student who is writing his master’s thesis on China’s carbon markets, asked whether a future linkage was possible between China’s national carbon market (set to begin next year) and a potential U.S. carbon market. The short answer: probably not, given the vast differences in the two jurisdictions. Other questions concerned the fate of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, differences between environmental governance in the U.S. and China and, of course, what the future holds for Sino-U.S. environmental collaboration.

In the future, McCabe emphasized, overcoming global environmental challenges will require a long-term, coordinated effort by dedicated professionals working in both countries. By choosing to focus on environmental issues, she joked with the students, “You’ll never be out of work.” 

Written by Victoria Wu, HNC Certificate/SAIS MA Student