China’s Qingdao Maritime Court on Monday ruled that a lawsuit against ConocoPhillips China and China National Offshore Oil [corporate websites] for a 2011 oil spill can proceed. The suit was brought by China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation [official website, in Chinese; press release, in Chinese] and it the first case to proceed since the country revised a law (Environmental Protection Law Article 58, PDF; LOC backgrounder) allowing NGOs to directly sue polluters in the public interest. The Chinese government has already fined [China Daily report] the companies approximately $258 million for the spill. Other cases are also pending under the law, which became effective on January 1.
China had long come under international criticism for lax environmental laws and enforcement, but has taken more protective steps in recent years. Earlier this month, China set a 60 percent per capita carbon dioxide emissions reduction goal [JURIST report] for 2030. That follows up a November agreement with the US to cut its greenhouse gas emissions [JURIST report].