U.S.-China Partnership for Environmental Law
Sun Yat-Sen University (SYSU), a vibrant community of scholarship and learning characterized by its pioneering spirit, is among the leading educational institutions in China. SYSU is located in Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong province, and is known as China's "southern gate" because of its proximity to the ocean. With a population of over 11 million people, Guangzhou is among China's largest cities. As one of China's first "open" cities, Guangzhou experienced one of the fastest growing economies in China, which helped raise the province's GDP to one of the highest in the nation. This rapid economic growth, largely the result of an intense manufacturing industry, has come at a steep price in terms of environmental degradation. The partnership works directly with the SYSU School of Law, which established one of the first environmental law clinics in China and has now developed of a juris master program in environmental law. Through its work with the law school, the Partnership expects to make a significant impact on the training of future and current lawyers in South China with respect to environmental governance and the rule of law and to leverage the extraordinary influence of legal scholars on government policy to strengthen the rule of law in environmental protection.
Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims at the China University of Political Science and Law
The Partnership works closely with the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV) at the China University of Political Science and Law to engage in training of legal professionals in environmental law and strengthening China's environmental governance system. The China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing is one of the country's top law schools. It also hosts CLAPV, China's premier environmental legal NGO. Law professor and lawyer Canfa Wang founded CLAPV in 1998. The center is officially registered as a civil society organization with China University of Political Science and Law, where it operates an environmental legal clinic. CLAPV was influential in pioneering environmental litigation in China. Since its inception, the Center has directly assisted pollution victims in over 130 cases.
CLAPV continues to influence China's blossoming environmental NGO movement and build the capacity of China's legal system.
Renmin University of China Law School
Founded in 1950 and based in Beijing, Renmin University of China (RUC) remains best known for excellence in the humanities and social sciences. RUC Law School stands as one of Renmin's most acclaimed schools, and is considered China's premier law school, both nationally and internationally. After its founding in 1950, RUC Law School became the first institution of higher legal education in the People's Republic of China and, as such, is dubbed by many as the "cradle" nurturing China's most outstanding jurists. Leading RUC's list of many honors is the 1998 National May First Labor Merit Award, which was the first such award granted by the Ministry of Education to an institution of higher learning.
Vermont Law School entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with RUC in January 2011. In furtherance of the MOU, the Partnership has developed a student exchange program with Renmin University of China Law School starting in spring 2012. In addition, RUC students will participate in the Partnership's collaborative research projects and Vermont Law School's intensive environmental law summer study program.
In March 2009, Vermont Law School's President and Dean Jeff Shields and Ping Du, director of the Training Center of China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on short-term and longer-term training activities. NDRC is China's primary macroeconomic planning and management agency under the State Council. The National Energy Administration, the Department of Resource Conservation and Environmental Protection, and the Department of Climate Change are 3 of the more than 25 departments within the NDRC. Under the MOU, both institutions will collaborate on training workshops and seminars in China, training workshops in the U.S., and a potential master's degree program on energy and environmental law. These training programs will focus on environmental protection laws and concepts used in the U.S. and other countries. Participants will include government officials, state-owned enterprise management personnel, researchers, and others.
As an expansion of activities, the Partnership has engaged the China Environment Forum (CEF) at the Woodrow Wilson Center as a new implementing partners. Since 1997, the CEF has implemented projects, workshops, and exchanges that bring together U.S., Chinese, and other Asian environmental policy experts to explore the most imperative environmental and sustainable development issues in China and to examine opportunities for business, governmental, and nongovernmental communities to collaboratively address these issues. With extensive networks of energy and environmental practitioners in the government, business, non-governmental organizations, and research sectors in the U.S. and China, the CEF will contribute important program support and outreach resources to the program at VLS.
Southwest Forestry University (SWFU) is affiliated with China's State Forestry Administration and is under the primary supervision of the Yunnan's provincial government. It has a law department within the School of Humanities and Social Science that offers an undergraduate degree in law (LL.B degree) and, along with the School of Environmental Science and Engineering, offers a master of laws degree (LL.M) in ecology law. The university has received several awards for its green initiatives.
The law department has had experience implementing international cooperative programs. In November 2011, VLS and SWFU, in collaboration with CLAPV and NJC and with support from the Yunnan High People's Court, successfully completed a judicial training workshop that was part of a comprehensive capacity building program to develop an environmental law curriculum for Chinese judges. SWFU was instrumental in managing the local contacts and ensuring that three-day training event ran smoothly.
In April 2011, SWFU in collaboration with the Yunnan Environmental Protection Bureau established the Yunnan Academy of Biodiversity, which will assist the Yunnan Provincial Government in research and policy development concerning biodiversity issues and protection of the natural resources in the region. As the only forestry university in Western China, especially in a region rich in biodiversity, SWFU has the necessary capacity to serve as a resource for advocates as well asgovernment agencies and has potential to influence the development of a legal ecosystem to address the environmental governance and rule of law issues in the region.