Working together with ClientEarth and the Supreme People’s Court of China (SPC), PEL supported a training on Environmental Adjudication for 138 Chinese Environmental Judges. The training, which was held at the National Judges College in Beijing from November 28 to December 2, 2017, fostered fruitful cross-cultural dialogue and nurtured new relationships between Chinese Judges and foreign legal experts.
The training started with opening remarks and a lecture from SPC Vice President, Justice JIANG Bixin. Five foreign experts, including PEL’s Faculty Advisor Professor Jack Tuholske, then followed with lectures covering a broad range of topics relating to China’s environmental adjudication.
Professor Jack Tuholske discussed the development of environmental law and the important role of the judiciary in the U.S.; Howard Bunch from U.S. EPA Office of Regional Counsel in Kansas City, Missouri, presented on enforcement actions by U.S. EPA; former VLS Professor and current General Counsel of ClientEarth, Doug Ruley, made a presentation on medical monitoring in environmental remedies; the past Chair of the UK Environmental Law Association, Stephen Sykes, introduced UK Legislation and case studies on contaminated land management; and Boston College Professor and Senior Attorney at the U.S. Department of Interior, Mark Barash, spoke about the compensation mechanisms for natural resource damages.
For each and every talk, the participant judges raised numerous questions which provoked heated and
interesting discussion during the Question and Answer sessions. The participants acknowledged that although the historic, political, legislative, and cultural situations in China differ from those in the U.S. and the U.K, the foreign experts’ lectures still revealed some applicable approaches for Chinese judges to consider so as to better address some of the tough problems in China’s environmental adjudication.
Following the foreign experts, Chinese national experts, including presiding judges from the adjudication tribunal for Environment and Resources of the SPC, and experts from the Ministry of Environmental Protection of China lectured on China’s watershed protection, Environmental Public Interest Litigation, SPC Judicial interpretation on mining rights, and environmental damage assessments.
The foreign experts, together with ClientEarth and PEL staff, also visited the Fourth Intermediate Court of Beijing over the duration of the training conference. The Vice President facilitated a tour of the different court rooms and also sat with the foreign expert delegation to introduce environmental cases recently accepted and adjudicated by the municipal court. It was a valuable experience for all the foreign experts to witness first-hand the operations of a local Chinese court and gain insight into how a case is processed.
Professor Tuholske expressed gratitude for the opportunity to participate in this training conference, explaining that “these experiences have deepened my understanding of the Chinese legal system and my respect for the effort that the Chinese government is putting forth to address its serious air, water and soil pollution problems.” Similarly, Senior Attorney Barash returned to the US excited by his expanded professional network and eager to implement a plan to improve future trainings on natural resource damage assessments for Chinese judges.
PEL is excited to announce that the reach of the training will go well beyond the 138 judges who were present at the training conference. The SPC and the National Judges College of China will share the video footage of the entire training session through their internal platform for all judicial staff (approximately 330,000 people) across China. All environmental judges will receive notifications about access to these training materials and will be strongly encouraged to review them for credit as part of the annual learning requirements for all Chinese judges. In all we are thankful to our partners for organizing an excellent event and PEL is thrilled to help facilitate such a valuable cross-cultural exchange of professional minds and skills.