Development of Environmental Law and Enforcement in China

July 29, 2019 11:30 am — 1:00 pm
Washington, DC (and webinar)

An ELI Seminar, co-sponsored by The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China. Over the past decade, the U.S. government, civil society, academia, and businesses have been actively engaging with China on environmental governance through capacity-building, knowledge transfer, and other mechanisms. These efforts have been instrumental in transferring best practices in environmental governance, helping China develop towards an effective and predictable environmental regulatory system, encouraging the growth of a vibrant community of environmental advocates and officials, and moving towards a more level playing field for U.S. businesses.

In recent years, the Chinese government has made efforts to address environmental quality that have included the enactment of new laws on air pollution, water pollution, and contaminated sites, and provisions strengthening enforcement. While PM2.5 levels have declined significantly, much work remains to get air quality protective of public health, and formidable water pollution and soil contamination problems remain.  

Senior officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice recently visited their Chinese counterparts.  In April, Matthew Z. Leopold, EPA General Counsel, met with officials of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment to discuss China’s new soil pollution legislation and the importance of the Rule of Law for environmental protection. Mr. Leopold also met with US multinational corporations with China-based businesses concerning the impact of China’s environmental enforcement efforts on U.S. businesses, with several environmental NGOs, and with members of the environmental bar in China. In May, Jeffrey Bossert Clark, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) at the DOJ and his colleague Jonathan D. Brightbill, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, met with officials from both the Supreme People’s Procuratorate and the Supreme People’s Court on comparative best practices for combating environmental crimes and using civil actions against polluters. While in China, they also gave presentations to Chinese prosecutors, judges, academics, and other Chinese officials at the National Prosecutors College, to the public at the Beijing American Center, and to the academic community at China University of Political Science and Law.

These top U.S. government environmental lawyers joined John Pendergrass, Vice President, Programs and Publications of ELI, and Jennifer Turner, Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum to compare their recent experiences, and to discuss Chinese environmental law developments, new approaches to enforcement, and the effects of Chinese environmental laws on U.S. companies. 

John Pendergrass
, Vice President, Programs and Publications, Environmental Law Institute
Jennifer Turner, Director, China Environment Forum and Manager, Global Choke Point Initiative, Wilson Center

Jeffrey Clark
, Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), Department of Justice
Matthew Leopold, General Counsel, Environmental Protection Agency
Jon Brightbill, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), Department of Justice

There are no materials for this session.
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