Road in China with trees and pedestrians

International seminar on environmental law for ‘Greening the Silk Road’

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Greening the Silk Road was the focus of the recent International Seminar on Environmental Adjudication co-hosted in Beijing by the Supreme People’s Court, ClientEarth China, the Environment and Resources Law Institute and the China Law Society. The meeting aimed to deepen cooperation on environmental justice among “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI) countries and to create robust legal safeguards for a green “Belt and Road”, to a community of shared responsibility for the planet.

Senior judges from the East African Court of Justice, the Supreme Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Supreme Court of Ukraine, the High Court of Kayin State, Myanmar, the Court of Appeal of Thailand, and Director from from UNEP Law Division gathered with more than 40 Chinese environmental judges and experts from the Supreme People’s Court and the people’s high courts of Fujian, Henan, Chongqing, Gansu and Guizhou provinces, as well as the China Law Society and the BRI International Green Development Coalition.

In his keynote opening speech on ‘the Contribution of China’s Environmental Justice to ‘the Belt and Road Initiative’ and the Outlook’, Yang Wanming, Grand Justice of the Second Rank and Vice President of the Supreme People’s Court, introduced concrete measures the Chinese courts took to enhance environmental adjudication and celebrated the importance of international exchanges in promoting “green Belt and Road”.

He went on to suggest that Chinese courts bear in mind the varied level of economic development and environmental protection in BRI jurisdictions, uphold the notion of environmental justice and provide people equal protection of environmental rights and interests regardless of region, culture, gender, income level, social status and generation. At the end of the speech, Justice Yang presented an outlook where the judiciary systems in BRI countries rise to fight climate change and biodiversity loss. Chinese and international participants contributed to a Q & A session by sharing landmark cases and best practices in judicial protection of environment.

Prior to the conference, the international participants visited the courtrooms and the information center of the Supreme People’s Court (SPC), learning about the application of information technology in China’s judicial practice, especially in adjudication. At the following meeting with Justice Yang Wanming, the participants learnt about SPC work on international exchanges and cooperation since 2015 and its cooperative projects with ClientEarth. Justice Yang emphasised the importance of international cooperation in promoting China’s environmental justice and showcasing China’s efforts in this regard.

Dimitri de Boer, head of ClientEarth’s China office, spoke about cooperation with the Supreme People’s Court in the past few years and the close ties yielding strong results. He looked forward to more cooperation to improve and protect the global environment.

Wang Xuguang, chief judge of the Environment and Resources Division of the Supreme People’s Court concluded the seminar. He underlined the cooperation, inclusiveness, mutual learning and reciprocal benefits that judiciaries of different countries all committed to pursue, saying it provided a foundation for using environmental justice to build the green silk road.

This seminar, as one of the joint activities between ClientEarth and the SPC, deepens cooperation on judicial protection for the environment. It supports obligations under international conventions, and using the rule of law to strengthen biodiversity conservation, enhance international cooperation and build a just global climate governance system.

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Zane Swaydan