Image courtesy of South China Morning Post

November 1, 2017
by giannapetito
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What do China’s OFDI Patterns Mean for Countries in the Lower Mekong Region?

Last week the China’s ruling Communist Party enshrined President Xi’s One Belt One Road Initiative into its constitution.[1] While the Initiative has been touted by President Xi since 2013, its elevated status led us to wonder what this might mean for neighboring countries in Southeast Asia.

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October 6, 2017
by Yu Zhuang
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Guiyang Public Environmental Education Center (贵阳公众环境教育中心) – A Father’s Promise of “A Hometown of Green Hills and Clear Waters (绿水青山)” to His Daughter

In an interview with PEL, the Director of Guiyang Public Environmental Education Center (GPEEC), Mr. Huang Chengde (黄成德), said that his dedication to environmental protection was rooted in a promise he had made to his dear daughter that when she grows up, their hometown, Guiyang City, will still have green hills and clear waters. According to Mr. Huang, protecting the environment is not for the pursuit of grandeur but, rather, for ourselves, our families, and our children and grandchildren.

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In 2010, Mr. Huang Chengde established Guiyang Public Environmental Education Center (GPEEC), the first grassroots environmental public interest organization registered with the Guiyang City Civil Affairs Bureau. Since then, GPEEC has established a 5-stakeholder-cooperative (五位一体) to promote public participation in local environmental and social governance which includes the government, courts, NGOs, companies, and members from the neighboring community.

[Author’s Note: This article is co-authored by Yu Zhuang and Huang Chengde. The authors would like to thank Gianna Petito for editing assistance.]

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September 25, 2017
by Yu Zhuang
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Multi-Governance and Society-Shared Benefits (多元共治,社会共享) Story Series of Chinese Environmental Civil Society Organizations – Green Jiangnan (绿色江南)

According to the Director of Green Jiangnan, Mr. Fang Yingjun (方应君), over the past 5 years, the role of Chinese environmental civil society organizations (ECSO) in China’s environmental governance has undergone revolutionary changes. Previously, Chinese ECSOs helped promote environmental protection mainly through environmental education and media disclosure. Now they are actively participating in finding solutions to environmental problems. Reflecting upon their previous accomplishments and lessons, ECSOs are taking increasingly innovative and strategic approaches to engage in environmental pollution remediation and environmental risks prevention. They also serve to promote social stability by efficiently resolving environmental disputes in situations where government engagement may backfire or be counterproductive. This is because ECSOs earn public trust by acting for the public interest and they develop a reputation as independent third-party players. This blog series will introduce different stories of ECSOs across China in order to highlight their evolving role in environmental governance.

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Green Jiangnan registered as an ECSO in March 2012 under the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP) Civil Affairs Bureau. The organization identifies its role as a critical first-line pollution investigator within the Lake Tai (太湖) watershed, which discovers environmentally compromised areas and then works cooperatively with local Environmental Protection Bureaus (EPB) to solve the pollution violations. The majority of its staff members have environmental science degrees.

[Author’s Note: This article is co-authored by Yu Zhuang and Fang Yingjun. The authors would like to thank Gianna Petito for editing assistance.]

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September 15, 2017
by William Schulte
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Exploring Environmental Governance in Cambodia and Vietnam

 During Vermont Law School’s Summer Term 2017 I worked with some of our local partners in Cambodia and Vietnam to organize and lead a field study trip to both countries as an optional offering for students taking part in a new course taught by Professor Lin Yanmei and myself – Environmental Governance in the Developing World.

Visiting Ms. Ly's village in Vietnam

Visiting Ms. Ly’s village in Vietnam

The trip was designed to provide students with an opportunity to observe firsthand some of the issues, conditions and challenges with regard to implementing strong environmental governance in countries like Cambodia and Vietnam.   As described below, among other things we visited with local law firms, witnessed local community meetings on the management of protected forests, went on an amazing hike, and visited several UNESCO World Heritage sites.  It was truly an eye opening experience that gave us a deep appreciation for some of the difficulties that countries in the developing world face in pursuing sustainable development.

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July 31, 2017
by giannapetito
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Exploring Policy Options in China to Stem the Illegal Timber Trade

Forest Department Director of Inspection in Myanmar gestures towards confiscated illegal timber. SOURCE: Blue Moon Fund and Global Environmental Institute

Forest Department Director of Inspection in Myanmar gestures towards confiscated illegal timber. SOURCE: Blue Moon Fund and Global Environmental Institute

The U.S.-Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law (PEL), in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy (TNC), recently completed an initial report on our pioneering research into the international regulation of illegal timber trade, with a focus on the China’s transnational policy dynamics.

The regulation of illegal timber trade is a significant component of the international community’s effort to embed international economic activities within sustainable social and environmental practices. This vexing issue of international trade regulation is part of the larger controversy over management of globalization in order to maintain environmental integrity and social stability.  Therefore, illegal timber trade can be viewed as a case-in-point of one of the overarching challenges of our time.

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June 12, 2017
by Xiaoyu Zhang
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Updates from the Field: Ecological Environmental Exchange and Research Convention with Fujian Provincial High Court

To extend our exchange and communication with Chinese judiciaries, on June 9th the Fujian Provincial High Court invited U.S. – Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law (PEL) to speak in Fujian, Wuyishan in front of more than 40 environmental and natural resources tribunal judges from Fujian province.

International Exchange and Research Convention on Ecological Environmental Judiciary in Fujian, Photo by Fujian Provincial High Court

International Exchange and Research Convention on Ecological Environmental Judiciary in Fujian, Photo by Fujian Provincial High Court

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June 8, 2017
by Yanmei Lin
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Updates from the Field: Exploring Co-Learning with China’s Supreme People’s Court

In the last three years, China’s judiciary has made significant progress in strengthening its capacity to adjudicate environmental cases. The Supreme People’ Court in China (SPC) established a specialized environmental and resources division in June, 2014 proliferating more than 600 specialized environmental tribunals and divisions. The U.S.-Asia Partnerships for Environmental Law at Vermont Law School (PEL) has been providing technical support to Chinese courts in these important efforts by conducting trainings and by sharing the results of our in-depth research on key judicial policy issues on environmental public interest litigation, including lessons learned from the U.S. and other countries’ experiences.

VLS Professors led a roundtable discussion with environmental judges at China’s Supreme People’s Court

VLS Professors led a roundtable discussion with environmental judges at China’s Supreme People’s Court

On June 6, 2017, Professor David Mears, Vice Dean of the Faculty at Vermont Law School, Professor Jack Tuholske, Director of the Water and Justice Program and Professor Yanmei Lin, Associate Director of PEL, together with Mr. Dimetri Deboer, Director of Client Earth China Program had a roundtable with judges from SPC and from four other provincial high courts, to discuss recent developments in China’s environmental judiciary and lessons and experiences from the U.S. environmental legal system.

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May 15, 2017
by Yu Zhuang
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The Challenge of Litigation Costs and Damage Assessment Fees in Environmental Public Interest Litigation in China

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The front picture is from “China encourages environmental groups to sue polluters,” THE GUARDIAN.

From January 2015 when the new Environmental Protection Law (EPL) took effect to the end of 2016, courts in China have accepted 112 environmental public interest litigation (EPIL) cases filed by non-governmental organizations (NGOs). But, as of November 2016, only six NGOs have brought EPIL cases, down from eleven in 2015. In light of China’s mounting environmental crisis and the fact that over 700 NGOs are eligible to file EPIL cases under the EPL, the number of EPIL cases filed and the NGOs filing these cases are surprisingly low. One reason is the high upfront costs and risks borne by NGOs, which includes litigation costs paid to courts and damage assessment fees. These costs and fees constitute a formidable barrier to environmental NGOs because many of them operate on constrained budgets. As a result, very few NGOs can afford to pursue legal action.

[Author’s Note: This article was originally published in The Comparative Jurist, a William & Mary Law School’s International and Comparative Law Blog. The author would like to thank the editors of the Comparative Jurist for constructive comments and editing assistance.]

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May 9, 2017
by William Schulte
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Myanmar: National Consultation on the Draft Guideline on Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment

MONREC LogoOn May 8, 2017 we supported the Environmental Conservation Department (ECD) of Myanmar’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation (MONREC) to host a National Consultation Meeting in Yangon on the Draft Guidelines for Public Participation in Environmental Impact Assessment.  The meeting brought together over one hundred representatives of stakeholder groups including civil society, government, and the private sector.  The project has been made possible through funding from USAID and the Mekong Partnership for the Environment. Continue Reading →

March 13, 2017
by Yanmei Lin
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EPIL Typical Case #1: Taizhou Environmental Protection Association of Jiangsu Province v. Taixing Jinhui Chemical Company, et al., A Water Pollution Environmental Public Interest Litigation Case

Rutai River, Picture from Beidu Baike Wiki

Rutai River, Picture from Beidu Baike Wiki

This case is translated and summarized from the 10 Environmental Public Interest Cases promulgated by Supreme People’s Court . The original publication can be found here.

Basic Facts of the Case:

From January 2012 to February 2013, the Taixing Jinhui Chemical Company, et al., six defendants, dumped nearly 26,000 tons of acid by-product into the Rutai Canal and the Gugaman River, causing severe ecological damage. All six defendants entered contracts to sell the acid by-product at the rate of 20 to 100 yuan/per ton to companies that were not licensed to handle hazardous wastes. The plaintiff Taizhou Environmental Protection Federation (TEPF) petitioned to the court to assign environmental restoration expenses of 160,666,745 yuan (US $26 million) and 100,000 yuan (US $14,285). Continue Reading →