Many have responded negatively to the recent draft of a revision to the Environmental Protection Law that sites the All-China Environment Federation as the sole agent of the new public interest lawsuit provision. Many scholars and NGO workers view the legislation as a step back. Even the ACEF expressed a desire that more groups could be included in the scope of the provision, noting that “this isn’t a power, it’s a responsibility.” In terms of its implementation, the public interest lawsuit cases have been viewed as a series of “difficulties”: difficult to prosecute, difficult to hear, difficult to sentence, difficult to win, and difficult to execute. In fact, aside from a case currently being carried out by Friends of Nature, the two successful public interest lawsuits were both raised by the ACEF. But the ACEF is a GONGO: a State Council approved, Ministry of Civil Affairs registered, Ministry of Environmental Protection managed, national-level social organization, and thus its success is hard to replicate: the progress of the Friends of Nature case is much more exciting. However, if the Environmental Law revision is implemented according to the current draft, environmental NGOs will no longer have the opportunity to explore the development of this new legal provision.
For information more on the public interest lawsuit, look out for the next View from the Media column.