China Says It Will Make It Easier For Environmental Groups To Sue Polluters


China’s highest court announced Wednesday that it will reduce the cost of litigation for environmental groups seeking to sue companies or individuals that pollute the country’s air, land, and water.

In a post on its website, the Supreme People’s Court said it would give “special status” and reduce court fees for “social organizations involved in public interest litigation” involving the environment. China has more than 700 registered and regulated environmental protection groups that will be impacted by the new directive, The Guardian reported.

The post did not clearly specify the reason for the new directive, saying only that it was issued “in response to questions on the matter.” But it is likely that China is taking action in response to its notoriously bad air pollution, which despite having improved slightly in 2014, is still some of the worst in the world.

China’s pollution reached levels so bad that this past March, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang officially “declared war” on the horrific and tragic smog problem. Since then, the country has announced plans to reduce toxic gases by banning high-emission cars and closing coal-powered furnaces, and entered into an historic agreement with the United States to peak its carbon emissions and get 20 percent of its electrical power from renewable sources by 2030. Neither the plans nor the agreement, however, are legally binding.

The country does seem to be cracking down on polluters in court, at least in the last month. Just last week, an eastern Chinese court ordered six companies to pay a combined $26 million in fines for discharging acid into two waterways. The fines represent the highest-ever penalty in Chinese environmental public interest litigation, the New York Times reported.

Still a developing country, China is currently the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, with the United States close behind.