Article Open Access

The Role of Liability Regime in Addressing Historical Contaminated Land Problems: A Comparative Perspective from England and China

Ecological Civilization. 2024, 1(1), 10006; https://doi.org/10.35534/ecolciviliz.2023.10006
Mengyu Cui 1,    Mengxing Lu 2, *   
1
Faculty of Law, Newcastle University, Newcastle NE1 7RU, UK
2
Civil, Commercial and Economic Law School, China University of Political Science and Law, Beijing 102249, China
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.

Received: 07 Oct 2023    Accepted: 01 Dec 2023    Published: 15 Dec 2023   

Abstract

This article conducts a comparative analysis of contaminated land regimes in China and England, focusing on their development, liability attribution, key principles, administrative nature, and financial guarantees. Both regimes are risk-based and are supported by the Polluter Pays Principle and the Stewardship Principle. They have similar liability arrangements: attributing the liability firstly to the polluter and then to landowners/occupiers or the usufructuaries. Administrative authorities under both regimes hold pivotal roles in remediating land on certain occasions. However, the cost recovery mechanisms vary due to the different constitutional roles among enforcing authorities, courts, and liable parties in the two countries. Both regimes impose retrospective liability, yet England provides detailed rules regarding the hardship provision and exclusion tests, preventing the unfair allocation of liability more effectively. Experience from England highlights the limited role of legal regimes in managing historical pollution, emphasising the need for supplementary mechanisms. This is why financial support is critical for effective land remediation in both countries. 

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