China Program

Since the mid-1990s, ELI has understood the critical role that China, and its now 1.4 billion people, has in global environmental protection. Since that time, the Environmental Law Institute has helped to improve environmental rule of law, enforcement and compliance in China and worked in partnership with Chinese NGOs, universities, law firms, businesses, judges and environmental regulators. ELI has held seminars and panel discussions on Chinese policy issues, trained lawyers on environmental justice issues, and published articles and books on sustainability, environmental management, and constitutional environmental law in China. ELI began translating our key publications into Chinese, starting with the Practical Guide to Environmental Management, 6th Edition in 1995. Joining with our numerous partners, ELI’s China Program is an indispensable convener and source of clear-thinking expertise on governance and enforcement in responding to the government’s increasing commitment to environmental protection.

Building Capacity for the Environmental Law System in China

China’s recent reforms to its Environmental Protection Law establish important new authorities for the government and the public alike, with the added ability of authorized civil society groups to file citizen suits. However, the success of these improved environmental protection systems relies on a multifaceted system of accountability, with both the government and civil society playing key roles. ELI is providing technical assistance, capacity building, and legal training to NGOs that have been approved by the civil authorities to engage in civil environmental litigation in China.

Catalyzing Best Practices to Improve Water and Air in China

ELI is working with the Policy Research Center for Environment and Economy (PRCEE), a leading Chinese Environmental think tank, to conduct comparative studies of the best global practices in compliance, enforcement, and other aspects of air and water pollutant control permitting. ELI is contributing its historic comprehensive knowledge of environmental compliance across the world, while PRCEE helps advise China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) on how to improve the Chinese environmental regulatory system. ELI recently issued a report, Managing Environmental Protection and Economic Considerations Under Select U.S. Environmental Laws and Permitting Systems, in furtherance of this effort.

Helping Provide Judicial Training to the Chinese Judiciary

ELI has collaborated with Chinese officials and other partners to help educate the judiciary on how to improve its oversight and management of environmental cases. In 2017, ELI hosted five Chinese environmental judges recommended by the Supreme People’s Court of China to meet with prominent U.S. environmental law experts. In 2016, ELI Vice President John Pendergrass served as an expert presenter on climate litigation at a workshop for the Supreme People’s Court and on liability for environmental cleanup and restoration at a workshop for more than 200 judges on China’s environmental benches. 

Leading the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement

ELI hosts the Secretariat of the International Network for Environmental Compliance and Enforcement (INECE), which is a partnership of 2,000 government and non-government enforcement and compliance practitioners from more than 150 countries.  In 2016, ELI organized and led a program on innovative technologies in enforcement with the Subcommittee on Environmental Enforcement, an affiliate of China's Ministry of Environmental Protection.  ELI’s INECE role enhances its knowledge of environmental enforcement and compliance best practices around the world. This further ensures the success of ELI’s China Program.

Improving the Mekong River Ecosystem

ELI worked with the Mekong River Commission (MRC), to which China holds observer status, on a transboundary environmental impact assessment (TbEIA) in 2008. Through case studies and other analyses, ELI provided practical information to the MRC working group on how to conduct an accurate and effective TbEIA.  As a follow-up to the workshop, ELI reviewed the MRC's draft framework for its TbEIA, including examining how it aligned with international best practices. Based on this research, ELI produced a comprehensive report that offered specific recommendations for modifying the framework for consideration by the MRC working group.