China hosted a weeklong training for environmental prosecutors in early July 2018.
WCEL participated in a weeklong training for eighty environmental prosecutors from China organized by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP - the highest level procurators body at the national level in China) and ClientEarth. Supreme court justices from Brazil, Pakistan, United States, Finland, Australia and South Africa lectured at the trainings. In addition, Justice Laurent Fabius of the Paris Agreement, Executive Director Erik Solheim of UN Environment, and CEO James Thornton of ClientEarth gave keynote presentations. Justice Antonio Benjamin, WCEL Chair and Member of the Global Judicial Institute on the Environment Interim Governing Committee (GJIE IGC), Justice Michael Wilson (Supreme Court of Hawai’i), WCEL Member and Member of GJIE IGC, and Justice Brian Preston (Chief Judge of the Land and Environment Court of New South Wales), WCEL Member and Member of GJIE ICG, and Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah (Supreme Court of Pakistan), WCEL Member adn Member of the GJIE ICG, also presented at the training. The trainings will be uploaded to an online platform for all prosecutors in China.
In the past years, procurators at all levels have brought over 20,000 legal cases, mainly against government departments that violate environmental laws. In these cases, the defendant must rectify the situation within two months or face an environmental public interest lawsuit from the prosecutors. On 6 July 2018, President Xi Jinping endorsed an institutional reform that allows "procuratorates" at all levels to establish specialized departments to handle these environmental cases.
Few NGOs in China are capable of bringing public interest lawsuits, and they are currently not allowed to bring such cases against government departments. This week long training demonstrated that these specialized prosecutors are urgently needed to ensure that local governments abide by their legal environmental responsibilities. They also provide a potential model for other countries to follow in an enforcing the environmental rule of law.
Dimitri de Boer
Head of ClientEarth China Programme