ClientEarth helps build system for public interest cases by Chinese prosecutors

In the past years, procurators at all levels have brought over 20.000 legal challenges, mainly against government departments which violate environmental laws. The defendant must rectify the situation within 2 months or face an environmental public interest lawsuit from the prosecutors. To further bolster this system, procuratorates at all levels will now establish specialised departments to handle these cases. Just last Friday (6 July 2018) President Xi Jinping endorsed this institutional reform.

Since 2016, ClientEarth has cooperated with the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP – the highest level procurators body at the national level) on a series of exchanges, to help develop this system of environmental public interest litigation. This is very important, because in practice there are very few NGOs in China which are capable of bringing good public interest lawsuits, and currently they are not allowed to bring such cases against government departments. These prosecutor cases are urgently needed to ensure that local governments abide by their legal environmental responsibilities.

The cooperation between ClientEarth and the SPP started in April 2016, when we held a seminar in Beijing on the topic of public interest litigation, and in May 2016 we accompanied two Chinese prosecutors participated to the conference of the European Network of Prosecutors for the Environment (ENPE) in the Netherlands. In September 2017, we accompanied two Chinese prosecutors to participate in the ENPE conference in Oxford, UK. In both cases the prosecutors made recommendations to their leadership upon their return. We jointly organized a major seminar in Xiamen, China, in December 2017, which was attended by the deputy procurator-general. In January 2018, an MOU was signed between the two organizations to further deepen cooperation.

Just last week in July 2018, ClientEarth and the SPP organized a weeklong training for 80 environmental prosecutors from all over China. Supreme court justices from Brazil, Pakistan, the USA, Finland, Australia and South Africa lectured at the trainings, in addition to James Thornton of ClientEarth, Laurent Fabius of the Paris Agreement, and Erik Solheim of UN Environment. The trainings will be uploaded to an online platform for all prosecutors in China.

This year in October, we are preparing to continue these exchanges by organizing a group of six senior prosecutors to attend the ENPE conference in Greece, followed by a workshop in Brussels on the topic of environmental prosecutions, and follow up meetings in the Netherlands (October 23 – 30).

ClientEarth will intensify its cooperation with the procuratorate to provide capacity building and international best practices on environmental litigation.

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