In China, there have been no cases where citizens (on citizen groups) think that their state is breaching the law because it has authorised a project leads to increased emissions or ineffective adaptation. Nevertheless, a case could be based on the following grounds:
- Non-compliance with constitutional obligations. Like scenario 1 above, project approval could be challenged on the basis of constitutional obligation, particularly Articles 9 and 26 of the Constitution. They mandate the state to protect the environment and prevent pollution (Art. 26) and requires the state to ensure that damage to natural resource is prohibited (Art. 9). Since climate is a very crucial element for the ‘living environment and the ecological environment’, these provisions could form a basis of a suit challenging projects that lead to increased GHG emissions or impact on features that are crucial for adaptation.
However, standing requirements are narrow with eligibility requirements limited to NGOs. Under the revised Civil Procedure Law in 2013 and the Environmental Protection Law in 2014, environmental NGOs that have been registered with the civil administration department and operated in public environmental protection activities for over 5 years the ability to sue polluters in the public interest.
The absence of cases could be attributed to:
- A lack of strong legislative and constitutional basis such as no specific climate legislation;
- Non-recognition of environmental rights in the Constitution and non-recognition of GHGs as air pollutants in the Pollution prevention and control legislation; and
- Restrictive standing requirements where individuals cannot file environmental cases against public actors and only a small number of NGOs are qualified to file public interest environmental cases.
For more country specific context and relevant national climate change law see: https://climate-laws.org/geographies/china
This country report has been produced by Manon Rouby, C2LI Research Assistant, Humzah Khan, C2LI Senior Research Assistant and Lydia Omuko-Jung, C2LI Legal Analyst with the collaboration of Tianbao QIN and Meng ZHANG, C2LI National Rapporteurs. This summary is based on Tianbao QIN and Meng ZHANG, “Climate Change and the Individual: A Perspective of China” in F. Sindico and M. Moise Mbengue, Comparative Climate Change Litigation: Beyond the Usual Suspects, Springer, 2021.