Polluting companies in China risk uncapped fines and legal action from environmental groups under revised environmental law

Out-Law News | 28 Apr 2014 | 11:32 am | 1 min. read

Companies in China found guilty of polluting the environment will face unlimited fines under revised environmental laws, according to the state-owned newspaper China Daily. 

Polluters will also be liable to be sued by environmental organisations under the updated legislation. This is the first time that those organisations will have the right to bring cases against businesses alleged to have caused environmental pollution, the newspaper said.

In order to be eligible to bring cases, the organisations must be registered with prefecture-level governments' have been focusing on environmental protection for more than five years, and have a "good reputation". 

The revised legislation has been approved by the National People's Congress Standing Committee in its fourth draft, following almost two years of revision

Under the new measures, law polluters risk uncapped fines which could be charged on a daily basis, said China Daily. According to the Financial Times, previous caps meant that it could be cheaper for companies to pay the fines than to change their operating procedures to be more environmentally friendly.

In addition, agencies tasked with monitoring environmental damage would be liable to prosecution under the revised law if they are found to have forged reports.

The changes to China's 1989 Environmental Protection Law come weeks after the Chinese government pledged to "declare war" on pollution following  growing concern at government level about pollution in China, particularly in Beijing which has experienced chronic high levels of smog pollution in recent months. Last year the government pledged to steer local governments away from a "growth-at-all-costs" economic model, designed to help alleviate pollution problems. Earlier this year a report by the Beijing-based Social Science Academic Press and the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences ranked the Chinese capital second worst out of 40 global cities for its environmental conditions and "barely suitable" for living, according to Reuters.