China Program

Since the mid-1990s, ELI has understood the critical role that China, and its 1.4 billion people, has in global environmental protection. Since that time, ELI has worked to improve environmental rule of law, enforcement, and compliance in China in partnership with Chinese NGOs, universities, law firms, businesses, judges and environmental regulators. ELI has held capacity-building workshops, high-level roundtables, 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 has translated some of our key publications into Chinese and published them in China. The most recent publications include Practical Guide to Environmental Management, 10th Edition (published in China in 2012) and The Sustainability Handbook – The Complete Management Guide to Achieve Social, Economic, and Environmental Responsibility (published in China in 2009). Joining with our numerous partners, ELI’s China Program is an indispensable convener and source of clear-thinking expertise on governance and enforcement.

Supporting Platforms for Dialogue between Multinational Businesses and Chinese Environmental Regulatory Authorities

The China International Business Dialogue on Environmental Governance (CIBDEG) is a working group under ELI, proposed and organized by Latham & Watkins. The working group is designed to facilitate and encourage a dialogue between multinational businesses and Chinese environmental regulatory authorities regarding best practices in environmental regulation and performance by governments and industries, as well as the progression of environmental policy and regulation in China. The group's objectives include providing information and analysis to the Chinese government regarding environmental regulations in the United States and Europe as well as the concerns of multinational business, and providing information and analysis to multinational businesses regarding the direction of Chinese environmental regulation and enforcement priorities. For its leadership, innovation, and impact, CIBDEG was recently awarded in September 2019 with the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Europe Award for Collaboration. Please visit for more information.

Building Capacity for the Environmental Law System in China

China’s recent reform of its Environmental Protection Law establishes important new authorities for the government and the public alike, including capability of eligible civil society groups to file citizen suits. However, the success of these improved environmental protection systems relies on a multifaceted system of accountability by both the government and civil society. 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. ELI has worked with the China Environmental Protection Foundation (CEPF) to organize nine workshops since January 2018 at Tianjin University and Renmin University Law Schools in Beijing. These supports are subject to ELI’s fundamental principle that it is never involved in litigation in the U.S. or overseas. Neither ELI-affiliated professionals nor the project funding will directly support 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 contributes its comprehensive knowledge of environmental compliance practice across the world, while PRCEE helps advise China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) on how to improve the Chinese environmental regulatory system. ELI issued a report in March 2018, Managing Environmental Protection and Economic Considerations Under Select U.S. Environmental Laws and Permitting Systems, to further 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 (SPC) 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 SPC and on liability for environmental cleanup and restoration at a workshop for more than 200 judges on China’s environmental benches. 

Helping Provide Training to Chinese Prosecutors

Recognizing ELI’s deep expertise in environmental accountability systems, China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) approached ELI to provide training to Chinese prosecutors on comparative best practices in environmental criminal and civil litigation, particularly environmental public interest litigation. In December 2017, the SPP invited Scott Fulton, ELI President, to train Chinese prosecutors at a seminar on the Role of Prosecutors in Environmental Governance in Xiamen, China.

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 (predecessor of MEE).  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.