The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law announces the launching of a Transnational Environmental Accountability (TEA) Project. The project will focus on strategies for holding multinational companies accountable for harm caused by their activities in developing countries.
Multinational companies often cause environmental harm and social displacement when operating in the developing world and their work can result in severe conflicts with local populations. Major infrastructure projects have also been pursued by these same companies without sufficient attention to mitigating their environmental consequences, including expanded carbon footprints that exacerbate the problem of climate change.
The TEA Project combines the efforts of Maryland Carey Law’s award-winning Environmental Law Clinic, under the direction of Professor Seema Kakade, and its Global Environmental Law Seminar, taught by Professor Robert Percival. They will partner with Zhang Jingjing, an award-winning public interest environmental lawyer, who will be joining Maryland Carey Law’s Environmental Law Program as an adjunct professor.
Recently Professor Zhang has been monitoring the environmental performance of Chinese companies operating in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia. She notes that the Chinese government’s “Belt and Road Initiative” is greatly boosting Chinese investment in developing countries. China has now become the leading investor in the world with its outward foreign direct investment reaching $225 billion in 2017. Although the Chinese government has pledged to promote a “green Belt and Road,” Chinese companies operating in the developing world often do not understand or simply disregard local environmental laws and regulations.
Professor Zhang plans to work with Clinic and Seminar students on a variety of activities to promote improved environmental performance by multinational companies operating in the developing world. Students will conduct legal research to enhance awareness of environmental standards and help with the development of new laws and policies to improve the environmental performance of multinationals. They also will be assisting Friends of Nature, a leading environmental NGO in China, which is seeking to identify strategies for using litigation to hold multinationals accountable for harm in the developing world. The project has secured funding that will enable Maryland Carey Law students and faculty to travel to Africa, South America, and China and to host workshops showcasing their work.