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New Grant Trains Chinese Judges to Enforce Environmental Laws

June 27, 2011

SOUTH ROYALTON, VT -- Vermont Law School's U.S.-China Partnership for Environmental Law has received a grant to help judges enforce environmental justice in China.

Image of air pollutionChina's rapid industrialization has caused severe pollution in recent years, but the nation's judges often lack the knowledge and skills in environmental law to adjudicate these complex cases.

VLS and China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL), along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will use the $80,000 grant from the US-China Legal Cooperation Fund to help China's National Judges College to train judges in environmental governance and rule of law.

The project, which starts this month, includes training key instructors and judges to develop an environmental law training curriculum for the regular training program for all judges. The curriculum will provide judges with knowledge of environmental laws, a better understanding of the environmental protection principles behind the laws and the tools to apply those principles in deciding environmental cases and enforcing compliance orders.

"Ultimately, the effective implementation of China's environmental laws and regulations can improve environmental quality and reduce pollution, with benefits not only to the health and welfare of local people and communities but to global welfare with respect to water and air pollution, which has a trans-boundary effect," said Assistant Professor Siu Tip Lam, program director of the U.S.-China Partnership. "It will also benefit businesses that are already complying with environmental laws by leveling the playing field and reducing competitive pressure from non-complying businesses."

Since 2007, VLS has been collaborating with CUPL to conduct environmental law training for Chinese judges, lawyers, prosecutors, government officials and scholars. VLS recently helped to open China's first public interest environmental law firm and a new university legal advocacy center for environmental health and safety issues.

Photo of Chris Wren and students.

VLS Assistant Professor Siu Tip Lam and Professor Jason Czarnezki, program director and faculty director, respectively, of the U.S.-China Partnership for Environment Law and Renmin University of China Law School officials.

In addition to Chinese judges needing more training in environmental issues, many of China's environmental regulations are ambiguous and the law-making process often fails to consider enforcement concerns, making it difficult for courts to interpret the law consistently and assign liability. Nevertheless, recent efforts by non-governmental organizations, academia and the media have helped to develop some legal solutions to these problems. For example, since the establishment of China's first environmental court in 2007, more than 40 such courts have sprung up across the country. They have experimented with innovative rules that allow the procuratorates, environmental protection bureaus and related agencies, and environmental NGOs to bring civil cases on behalf of the public interest.

CONTACT: John Cramer, Associate Director of Media Relations
Office: 802.831.1106, cell: 540.798.7099, jcramer@vermontlaw.edu

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