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China aims to codify law on environment

2024-02-23 | By Cao Yin


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China is formulating an environment and ecology code so that stronger legislation can boost efforts to curb pollution and beautify the country.

Thanks to legislative achievements on environmental protection over the past decade, "the time is ripe for codification in this area", said Xu Anbiao, an official with the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislative body. He made the remark while providing details about the NPC Standing Committee's five-year legislative plan, which was unveiled in September 2023.

Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2012, the country's legislation on environmental protection has accelerated, with harsher punishment handed down to polluters and innovative measures taken in terms of environmental supervision. Xu, deputy head of the NPC Standing Committee's Legislative Affairs Commission said the NPC Standing Committee had formulated and amended 19 laws involving the environment and ecology over the past 10 years, bringing the total number of such laws to more than 30. Last year, Chinese lawmakers approved the Black Soil Protection Law and the Yellow River Protection Law to fill legislative gaps, with revisions also made to the Wildlife Protection Law, he said. While amending the Civil Procedure Law and the Administrative Procedure Law in 2017, "we also added content that allows prosecutors to initiate public-interest litigation on environmental protection, so as to tighten supervision on polluters", he said. Meanwhile, China also made efforts to form a complete legal system on the environment and ecology by formulating more than 100 regulations and over 1,000 local documents, Xu added.

Bie Tao, head of the law, regulation and standards bureau at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, said, "It's clear that the environmental field should be one of the most suitable and compatible areas to be codified." He said codification would help fully demonstrate the viability of the nation's socialist legal system with Chinese characteristics and cap its legislative achievements in environmental protection. "A code with a scientific style, a rigorous structure, reasonable forms and complete content will also help promote the governance capability of environmental protection by rule of law," Bie said.

In March 2023, Lyu Zhongmei, a NPC deputy and vice-president of the China Law Society, submitted a motion on the formulation of the environmental code, suggesting that the top legislature make it a priority. Providing a draft framework of the code to the legislature, she said, "Our country is still facing big environmental challenges, and it urgently needs to establish a legal system to comprehensively protect the environment." Lyu said she and her colleagues have attached great importance to research on the formulation of an environmental code since 2017, aiming to contribute to the creation of a unified legal basis for environmental law enforcement. "The move is also to promote Chinese-style modernization by rule of law," she said. After five years of endeavor, the law society's environmental and resources law division had completed the translation of 11 countries' environmental codes, she said, as well as five academic monographs and more than 60 theses, adding that "more efforts are being made to deeply advance the research". She suggested the top legislature lead the formulation of the code and set up a team that includes members from the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate to contribute to the effort.

In addition to the code, the NPC Standing Committee has also included legislative items related to security, people's livelihood, emerging business, and foreign regions in its plan for the next five years to meet the public's growing demand for legal clarity and to better safeguard national security.

Legislative Affairs Commission spokesman Yang Heqing said last month that 79 items are expected to be submitted to the NPC Standing Committee for review, adding that 51 others are also being prepared and are expected to be submitted if the research progresses smoothly.

Author: Cao Yin

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Edited by Liang Xiuchun