On April 24, 2014 the 8th meeting of the Standing Committee of the 12th National People’s Congress approved the revised Environmental Protection Law, that will come into force in 2015. In this article Yuan Jiechen, director of the NPC Law Committee, explains the features of the new law, in particular the reasons why four reviews were necessary before the final approval.
The most innovative aspect of the law lies in the new regulations for public interest environmental lawsuits. In the first two drafts of the law, the All-China Environment Federation was the only organization allowed to carry out such litigations. Following debates and suggestions, a third draft was presented in August 2013 according to which new actors could file a lawsuit if they respected the following conditions: being registered with a Civil Affairs Bureau above the city level, being active for at least five years, and have “a good reputation”.
According to Zhang Baju, Secretary General of Friends of Nature, this third draft did not change the essence of the first two, since the ability to decide who has “a good reputation” lies in the hands of the government.
In the final draft, presented at the end of last month, “good reputation” was replaced by “no record of illegal activity” widening the scope of actors entitled to file public interest envrionnment lawsuits.