How China’s courts implement climate policy

(China Dialogue, 26 Aug 2022) Unlike the focus on changing climate policy seen overseas, China's courts are more focussed on upholding government policy.

The global climate challenge has seen courts around the world use climate legislation or policies as legal grounds in cases or to bring about climate change mitigation or adaptation. Scholars in comparative law have started to look at the different ways countries’ courts deal with climate policy. They have found that some, such as China’s, focus on ensuring that government policy is implemented. In contrast, others are being used to challenge government policies to pursue more ambitious actions. Those differences reflect national justice systems, legal cultures and even models of climate governance.

Regardless of how the relationship between justice and policy develops, climate change lawsuits show that courts no longer merely settle disputes; they actively tackle climate policy issues. China’s courts are no exception. However, China’s particular focus on justice that’s oriented towards implementing policy could be improvemed: the courts must overcome problems caused by the lack of a framework law on climate change, and they must also improve their ability to apply non-legally binding climate policies in their judicial reasoning.

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China Dialogue, 26 Aug 2022: How China’s courts implement climate policy