China can lead the way on green governance, environmental lawyer says
James Thornton has advised the Chinese government on updating the country's environmental law. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
President Xi Jinping's plan to establish an "ecological civilization" is among the best blueprints for green governance, according to James Thornton, a UK-based environmental lawyer and activist.
New data suggests global climate change is increasing at unprecedented rates.
According to a World Meteorological Organization report, published on Monday, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surged last year at its highest speed in 800,000 years, driven by human activity and drought.
The environment was among the topics addressed at this month's 19th National Congress of Communist Party of China.
In his keynote speech at the event, Xi mentioned the environment 89 times, while the economy was mentioned 70 times, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.
In addition to creating more material and cultural wealth to meet people's ever-increasing needs for a better life, Xi told CPC delegates presenting at the congress that they need also to provide more quality ecological goods to meet people's ever-growing demands for a beautiful environment.
Erik Solheim, head of the United Nations environment department, said "global political will and a new sense of urgency" is needed to combat climate change.
Since assuming office, Xi has overseen wholesale changes to environmental policy in China, including the first amendments to the country's Environmental Protection Law in 25 years.
Thornton, founder and chief executive of London-based environmental advocacy agency ClientEarth, was among five foreign experts to advise the Chinese government on the new legislation.
"Which Western country is getting together a global panel of experts to analyze its legal system to see what could change to deliver an ecological civilization? Nobody," Thornton told China Daily.
ClientEarth has defeated the United Kingdom government in court on air pollution cases and has also prevented Poland from building new coal-fired power plants.
Thornton said China has enacted "profound corrective action" to its environmental policies.
Among other changes, the updated law makes it easier for civilians and non-governmental agencies to bring cases against polluting companies, including State-owned ones.