Judicial Protection of Biodiversity in China

From 14 to 15 September, 2017, the IUCN Environmental Law Programme, represented by Justice Antonio Benjamin, Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law and Ms. Ning Li, Programme Officer of the Environmental Law Centre, attended the International Symposium on Judicial Protection of Biodiversity in Nanjing, China.  

Photo: IUCN ELP

International Symposium on Judicial Protection of Biodiversity, Nanjing 

Co-organized by the Supreme People’s Court of China and the Asian Development Bank, the symposium was one of the few global events of such a nature organized in China.  Around 50 participants participated in the symposium, including representatives of UN Environment, ADB, ASEAN Biodiversity Centre, IUCN, World Wide Fund for Nature, Client Earth, judges from Nepal, Pakistan and Brazil as well as judges from the Environment and Resource Division of the Supreme Court of China and provincial High People’s Court of China.

The meeting was opened on 14 September by Justice JIANG Binxin, President of the 3rd Circuit Court of the Supreme People’s Court of China, Mr. CHEN Zhenning, Vice Governor of Jiangsu Province, Mr. ZHOU Jiye, Vice President of Jiangsu High People’s Court of China, Mr. Benedict Bingham, Country Director of ADB PRC Resident Mission, and Mr. Jiri Hlavacek, Chief of Environmental Governance and Conventions Branch, Law Division of UN Environment.

It was followed by presentations and discussions under the theme of “protection of endangered species”. In this session, followed by an introduction of IUCN and its environmental programme, the ELC introduced its relevant work, including information management platforms, analysis of the potential role of extraterritorial jurisdiction in illegal wildlife trafficking, ELC’s work with Tanzanian partners in the analysis of wildlife cases, and the global effort IUCN engages with other global actors in combating environmental crime.  

A field trip to Xinjizhou National Wetland Park was organized in the afternoon of 14th. The process for establishing the Park is a reflection of the effort China made in the past decade in gradually shifting from economic development to a balance between environment restoration and development. After a devastating flood, the park started with a decade-long relocation of residents and restoration of the islands’ natural system and became a base for environmental research and education on the Yangtze River.

The second day started with information exchange and discussion on wetland protection. Wetland is a relatively new focus of protection in China in comparison to the forest and marine ecosystems, but has achieved major progress in recent years. LIU Yaping, senior judge of Jiangsu High People’s Court and Mr. Justice Hawad Hassan from the Lahore High Court of Pakistan presented related judicial experience. Mr. YAN Chenggao of the State Forestry Administration of China and Mr. Hammad Naqi Khan of WWF Pakistan appealed for enhanced legal support to wetlands from the perspective of the environmentalist.

The final session focused on the protection of forest resources, in which WCEL chair Justice Antonio Benjamin reviewed and interpreted forest related provisions in the Environmental Protection Law and the Forest Law of China by highlighting unique provisions and features viewed from a global perspective. Justice Benjamin concluded his speech with a thought-provoking introduction of emerging legal principles pertinent to the theme.

After nearly four decades of rapid development, China has reached a phase where political will and legal frameworks are ready to give more priority to environmental and social issues in the context of economic development. The establishment of the Environment and Resource Division of the Supreme People’s Court in 2014 is a clear indication of the importance China attaches to solving environmental problems.  IUCN will continue to work and support China in its endeavor to achieve sustainability through the strong environmental legal expertise in its World Commission on Environmental Law and the IUCN Environmental Law Centre as well as the interdisciplinary strength of linking environmental law with the expert communities of environmental science, economics and social science.  

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