by Ashley Hogan
[JURIST] The Nanping Municipal Intermediate People's Court of Fujian found in favor [Xinhua report] of two environmental groups on Thursday under a new environmental law. The court ordered defendants to restore destroyed vegetation and pay compensation for the damage that resulted from of an illegal mining expansion. This was the first environmental protection case decided since the Environmental Protection Law[text, PDF; LOC backgrounder] took effect on January 1. The law allows NGOs to directly sue polluters in the public interest, and the victory by Friends of Nature and Fujian Green Home[advocacy websites] suggests that other environmental groups will have more power to combat pollution under the new law.
According to many experts, climate change [JURIST backgrounder] as a result of global greenhouse gas emissions is one of the most pressing and controversial environmental issues [JURIST report] facing the international community today. China has long come under international criticism for lax environmental laws and enforcement, but has taken more proactive steps in recent years. In July China's Qingdao Maritime Court ruled [JURIST report] that a lawsuit against ConocoPhillips China and China National Offshore Oil relating to a 2011 oil spill could proceed under the new environmental law. Also in July China set a 60 percent per capita carbon dioxide emissions reduction goal [JURIST report] for 2030. The announcement followed a November agreement with the US to cut its greenhouse gas emissions [JURIST report].