Beijing Conference Addresses Environmental Law Enforcement in China

January 2010

On January 9, the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), in cooperation with the Research Institute of Environmental Law (RIEL) at Wuhan University, hosted a conference on local judicial reforms in environmental law. A Supreme People’s Court judge, judges from specialized environmental divisions in four of the country’s courts, the deputy director of the Policy and Regulation Department of the Ministry of Environmental Protection, officials from local environmental protection bureaus, prosecutors, environmental law scholars, lawyers and non-governmental organization (NGO) representatives participated in the conference.

The conference was the final activity of an ABA ROLI-RIEL cooperative program that included conducting field research, developing policies and practical solutions to adjudication challenges, and promoting environmental public interest litigation. RIEL professors Wang Shuyi and Cao Shuqing presented a report on the development of specialized environmental divisions in courts in Jiangsu, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces. The ABA ROLI-supported study focused on the practice and challenges of existing environmental divisions and the necessity and feasibility of developing a system of specialized environmental divisions throughout China. The study found that judges considered damage and remedy assessment and the use of expert testimony to be issues of primary concern in the enforcement of environmental law.

Ma Yong, a lawyer from the national government-organized NGO—All China Environmental Federation—and Lin Yanmei, ABA ROLI environmental program officer, also spoke at the conference. They discussed recent examples of environmental public interest litigation and their significance to the enforcement of environmental laws, along with the evolving concept of public interest litigation in China.

Dr. Joshua Lipton, president and CEO of Stratus Consulting, Inc. and an internationally recognized expert in the measurement and quantification of natural resource damages, presented on natural resources damages assessment (NRDA) and environmental liability analysis (ELA). Lipton discussed various assessment models, legal issues surrounding NRDA and the role of experts in U.S. and other courts.

The conference, which brought together key environmental law players, was well-received by the participants, who discussed the theoretical and practical aspects of NRDA and ELA. It allowed for substantive discourse, facilitating information exchange and nurturing cooperative relationships among the stakeholders. Admiring the recognition by scholars, and Supreme People’s Court and administrative officials of the work judges are doing, a participating judge expressed hope for similar platforms in the future to help build stronger environmental divisions. He said such opinion-sharing would enable the judges “to do our part for the environmental protection cause in China.”

To learn more about our work in China, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at <>.