Archive for July, 2008

Paris

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

This year’s IFP academic & executive sessions were lively (the faculty had actually warned me ahead of time about this year’s student group!!) — and there’s obviously tremendous interest about emissions trading throughout the energy sector.  But I very much prefer to have that kind of enthusiasm & interest evident in the classroom!

This year I was able to catch up once again with former classmate Bob Gould & his wife Garrette Clark (please see last year’s posting), at a nice dinner in a small Pakistani restaurant in Montparnasse.  Bob has taken a new position at ERM France, and I was then able to visit ERM’s offices in the 10th arrondisement — a site not too far from the new home of one of my former students, Dr. Lew Fulton, & his wife Lili.   Lew & Lili are now back in Paris after a two-year stint in Nairobi at UNEP — and it’s really good to have them back!  Lew is a senior transportation specialist at the International Energy Agency, and he was one of the earliest victims of my (rather nascent!) teaching skills — i.e., in the second class I taught at Penn in 1984.  Luckily, however, he doesn’t hold that against me, and so we’ve gotten together many times over the years in Paris (with Lili too, another former Penn student who somehow skillfully managed to avoid taking my class).


Another view along Rue de Castiglione

On this Paris visit I was reading Alain de Botton’s latest work, The Architecture of Happiness.  De Botton is a peripatetic writer who has written books about philosophy, status, love, Proust, & travel, and he turns his hand to architecture in this one.  He notes that certain cities are universally recognized as beautiful (including Paris, Edinburgh, Rome and San Francisco), and his book shows a picture of the arches, facades, and balconies of the Rue de Castiglione in the 1st arrondisement — a few hundred meters from the store where I bought his book.  Its coherence and linearity “confronts us with an externalisation of the most rational, deliberate workings of our minds.”  I had talked about the role of order arising from urban environmental design in my Pollution Markets book, but de Botton is certainly much bolder than I was:

Our background awareness of inevitable calamity is what can make us especially sensitive to the beauty of a street, in which we recognize the very qualities on which our survival hangs.  The drive towards order reveals itself as synonymous with the drive towards life.

An interesting read…. (& I really enjoyed his previous The Art of Travel too!).  

Aix-en-Provence

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

From Korea I flew to Paris, & then took the TGV down to Aix-en-Provence to attend the 7th International Conference of the International Center for Research on Environmental Issues (ICREI), which this year focused on air pollution and climate change.  ICREI is housed at the Universite Paul Cezanne (named after the town’s most famous native son), and I was invited to make a presentation concerning the role of environmental markets in China.  Other invitees included Denny Ellerman from MIT (the author of Markets for Clean Air), who talked about the U.S. acid rain program; and Charlotte Streck of Climate Focus, who had recently worked with me on the HK Stock Exchange project.  Charlotte spoke about the legal aspects of property rights under climate change emissions markets.


Cocktails at the Pavillon de Vendome

Luckily, the conference organizers left plenty of time for us to wander around the streets and narrow alleyways of this sun-drenched town, so that we could visit such places as the art school where Cezanne studied (now the Musee Granet); the schoolyard where he met his close childhood friend Emile Zola (although the two later had a falling out, based upon the way Zola characterized the painter in one of his novels); and the fountains and cafes and nooks & crannies of this delightful Provencal town.  They even organized a cocktail hour (complete with jazz band) in the gardens of the Pavillon de Vendome, an ornate structure built in 1665 by the Duke of Vendome solely to have a place for his trysts with a woman best known as “The Beauty of Canet.”   It was a gorgeous setting to offer an appreciative toast to our hosts — and especially Max Falque, ICREI’s Managing Director, who organized the meeting (and invited me to attend).

Seoul

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Quite a bit of traveling lately — including my third trip to Asia in as many months.  This latest one brought me to Seoul in mid-June on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).  Three UN groups — UNEP’s Finance Initiative, the UN’s Global Compact, and Principles for Responsible Investment — held a joint conference in Seoul, and UNEP invited me to give a presentation about the low-carbon economy to a joint session of the three groups, as well as one about Asian emissions markets in the plenary session of their own meeting.  I was also interviewed by Chosun Ilbo, Korea‘s largest newspaper, and they used a quote about some of the serious potential impacts associated with climate change in their article about the conference. 


Ms. Youkyeong Lee

While in the city I also had a chance to check out the Cheonggyecheon Stream environmental restoration project, an internationally known city planning effort.  Seoul tore down a major multi-lane overhead highway system running right through the heart of the city, and physically restored the stream underneath, adding walkways, artwork, fountains, waterfalls, etc.  One of my former students, Youkyeong Lee, was kind enough to give me a tour of the area, and we walked for several kilometers along the new promenades, checking out the highlights and sights along the way.  We ended up at a traditional Korean ‘bibimbap’ restaurant, serving beef & vegetables over steamed rice — along with a nice cold beer.  Definitely a really great way to experience Seoul  so thanks much, Youkyeong!  


Guarding the DMZ

On this visit I also managed to secure a place on one of the U.S. Armed Forces USO tours of the DMZ, and went up to Panmunjeom to see the border area with North Korea.  All of the blue buildings straddling the border are administered by the UN, while silver ones are run by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea).  You can see two of the Republic of Korea (ROK, or South Korea) soldiers standing guard, one half sheltered by the building (their normal stance), with a North Korean soldier walking by in the distance.


Roger in the DPRK

I stepped over into North Korea (inside one of the blue buildings), but I was protected there by an ROK soldier (& yes, I’m the one not in full Tae Kwon Do stance!).  We then went down to visit one of the four infiltration tunnels discovered since the 1970s.  They claimed that it measured 2 m x 2 m, and that 30,000 men could pass through in an hour — but if our group was any indication, that’s probably a bit of a ‘high-end’ estimate.  I kept banging my head on the ceiling, and was quite pleased to get out.  I’m guessing that I don’t have much of a future in coal mining.