Environmental lawsuits still too expensive

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Although the new environmental protection law, enacted on January 1, 2015, gave more than 700 environmental protection organizations the authorization to bring environmental lawsuits, only two organizations – the All-China Environment Federation(ACEF) and Friends of Nature(FON) – have thus far exercised their rights. The ACEF is responsible for three public interest lawsuits while FON has brought one such lawsuit since the implementation of the new law. The Associate Director of ACEF, Lv Keqin explained that lack of funding is the major reason why the new law hasn’t become a big incentive for the qualified organizations to bring environmental lawsuits. “The costs of an environmental lawsuit, including investigation expenses, court costs and evaluation fees, could normally amount to 200,000 to 300,000 yuan” said Lv.

According to Ma Yong, associate director of the legal office of ACEF, most environmental organizations couldn’t even cover their operational expenses, let alone save extra money to bring public interest lawsuits. He pointed out that pressure from local governments and the vagueness of related regulations could also become obstacles to bringing environmental lawsuits. He said the new environmental law provided more options for environmental organizations to carry out their work, but at least for now there are still big challenges for those organizations and for the public to use legal methods to protect the environment.