ClientEarth organised a two-month fellowship between January and March 2017 in the United States for Chinese judges specializing in environmental law. This is the first such long-term overseas fellowship in environmental law for Chinese judges.
The fellowship was jointly organized by ClientEarth’s China Programme, the U.S. Asia Partnership for Environmental Law at the Vermont Law School, the Environmental Law Institute and the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont.
During the fellowship, five judges representing China’s Supreme People’s Court as well as local courts throughout China spent two months in Vermont and Washington DC to learn about the US environmental law system. The five judges were selected among over 200 candidates for their professional excellence and strong English language proficiency.
Between January 9 and March 5, 2017, the judges undertook intensive study of U.S. environmental law at the Vermont Law School (VLS), which boasts the most prestigious environmental law programme in the United States. Site visits were also made to the University of Vermont, the ECCO Centre at Lake Champlain and the Vermont Environmental Court.
Instructors during the training included professors at VLS and UVM as well as government officials from the Vermont Environmental Court, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and other institutions.
During this period, judges also engaged in research projects under the guidance of VLS professors. The research projects addressed specific issues they face in their work on environmental adjudication, and ways in which experiences from the US and other jurisdictions could be beneficial. Topics covered included air pollution litigation, water pollution control and environmental public interest litigation in China and the US.
Following the stay in Vermont, the judges paid a visit to Washington DC, where they met with US government institutions such as the Environmental Appeals Board of the EPA and the Board and the Board of Land Appeals at the US Department of Interior, as well as prominent environmental NGOs such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice.
ClientEarth China Programme
ClientEarth started to work in China in 2015 in order to share best practices and help the Chinese government develop better solutions to environmental challenges. The ClientEarth China Programme supports the drafting and implementation of better environmental laws and regulations, conducts training and technical exchanges with judges and prosecutors, and conducts cross-training events for environmental law professionals.
In 2016, ClientEarth and the China Supreme People’s Court started a series of cooperation activities to strengthen environmental rule of law in China. In October 2016, ClientEarth organized a delegation of judges from the Supreme People’s Court to the UK and Sweden. In June 2016, we held a seminar and training jointly with the SPC, attended by Zhou Qiang, President of the Supreme People’s Court and Xie Zhenhua, China’s top climate change envoy, as well as over 200 environmental judges from around the country.
Dimitri de Boer, Head of ClientEarth’s China Programme, said: “These judges have been handpicked by the Supreme People’s Court for their excellent English skills and their potential to shape environmental law and adjudication in China. This fellowship will have lasting impacts as these judges will not only try environmental cases, but also help build a stronger system of environmental law enforcement.”