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The Role of Judges in China’s Environmental Law

Robert F. Stanton Professor of Law Robert Percival (above right), director of Maryland Carey Law’s Environmental Law Program, has been helping Chinese officials upgrade the nation’s environmental standards.  Organized by China’s Supreme People’s Court and the UK-based NGO ClientEarth, Percival joined top Chinese officials and global environmental experts in June 2016 to conduct training for hundreds of judges from China’s new environmental courts. 

“Environmental law is at an important crossroads in China as the country seeks to combat horrendous air pollution and to halt the rise of its emissions of greenhouse gases,” says Percival.

On June 15, 2016, Percival visited China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection in Beijing, where top Chinese environmental officials expressed optimism concerning the battle against pollution because of new amendments to China’s basic environmental law that became effective on January 1, 2015.  “Much stricter penalties are being imposed on polluters and NGOs are bringing citizen suits under the new public interest litigation provisions of the law,” notes Percival. The officials thanked Professor Percival for his previous assistance in explaining the importance of calculating penalties on the basis of the number of days polluters are in violation, an important feature of the new law.

The following day, Professor Percival presented on the history of the judicial role in the development and implementation of environmental law to more than 200 judges at China’s National Judges’ College in Beijing.  Percival emphasized that at crucial stages in the development of U.S. environmental law courageous judges had insisted that environmental laws be strictly enforced. 

Among the audience members were two former students of Professor Percival’s (pictured right with Chinese environmental judge Cheng Hongyan) from when he taught environmental law while on sabbatical at the China University of Political Science and Law in 2008.

Zhou Qiang, the Chief Judge of China’s Supreme People’s Court, thanked Percival for his presentation to the judges and introduced him to Xie Zhenhua, former head of China’s environmental ministry and the top international climate negotiator for China for the last decade. In a presentation to the judges, Xie recounted the history of international climate negotiations. He described the December 2015 Paris Agreement as “a major milestone” in global efforts to combat climate change and noted that a bilateral U.S./China climate accord announced in November 2014 had paved the wave for achieving global consensus in Paris.

While in Beijing, Percival (pictured far right) also spoke on environmental federalism at a conference organized by the University of Chicago’s Beijing Center. Two rising fourth year JD students from Maryland Carey Law, Zhang Zhouxian (left) and Jinxin Sui (middle), who are working in Beijing this summer for Chinese environmental NGOs, also attended the conference.

 
 


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500 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1786 PHONE: (410) 706-7214 FAX: (410) 706-4045 / TDD: (410) 706-7714

Admissions: PHONE: (410) 706-3492 FAX: (410) 706-1793

Copyright © 2018, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. All Rights Reserved