12 Jul 2018 Featured Article Environmental rights and governance

First environmental law clinic opens in Wuhan University, China

Created in March 2018, the Wuhan University Environmental Law Clinic is the first of its kind in China to focus on training and supporting law students and other stakeholders in the practice and theory of public interest environmental litigation. Established within the scope of the Environmental Rights Initiative, the clinic is the result of the fruitful collaboration between UN Environment, Chinese law firms, and the Vermont Law School.

The environmental law clinic will serve as a regional ‘centre for excellence’ in environmental law education. One of its key activities will be to help establish a network of university environmental law clinics across China and Asia and the Pacific.

In 2015, China amended its Environmental Protection Law to allow any duly registered non-governmental organization that has been engaged in environmental protection activities for at least five consecutive years to initiate a public interest environmental litigation. Before the amendments, there were as few as eight cases a year, but since 2015, there have been over 117 public interest environmental cases. The Chinese Government has welcomed this development, as non-governmental organizations play a valuable role in helping authorities to enforce the law and advance China’s commitment for ‘ecological civilization’.

Leveraging the UN Environment’s ability to engage governments to advance legal frameworks for Rio Principle 10 on environmental rights, the clinic expects to further its partnership with the Environmental Defenders Office of New South Wales in Australia, in support of international environmental law and policy reform in the Pacific, and to strengthen freedom of information legislation.

For more information, please contact: Saranya.Rojananuangnit[at]un.org and Andrew.Raine[at]un.org.