Prosecutorial Regulation in the Global South: Environmental Civil Litigation by Prosecutors in China Compared to Brazil


Brazil’s successful prosecutorial civil action against polluters could be a regulatory example for the Global South. This paper analyses whether such regulation could also develop without the major political, institutional, and legal reforms that spurred it in Brazil. To do so, it analyses China, where similar reforms have so far not occurred, but where recently prosecutors have started to initiate civil litigation against polluters. It finds that prosecutorial civil litigation in China has only a limited regulatory effect or potential. Prosecutors in China are influenced by conflicting incentive structures that reward one-off lower level test cases with an innovation bonus, while structurally stimulating a focus on general crime fighting. Ironically, as a result of such incentives, the recent legal reform, towards providing standing for prosecutors in public interest litigation, will in contrast to Brazil, decrease instead of increase the regulatory effect of these cases. These findings have implications for understanding how the interaction between regulatory independence, legal reform and regime type shapes possibilities for regulatory innovation in the Global South.

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