By Paul Davies, Bridget Rose Reineking, and Andrew Westgate

In recent months, teams of inspectors from China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Communist Party’s anti-corruption commission have conducted a slew of surprise inspections of various industrial facilities throughout China. Estimates suggest that China has temporarily closed as many as 40% of the country’s factories at some point in the last year — sometimes for weeks at a time. The recent crackdown is the fourth in a series of region-wide inspections that began in July 2016, which together amount to some of the most dedicated and comprehensive efforts to enforce environmental compliance in the country’s history.

China’s somewhat urgent enforcement of environmental laws appears — at least in part — motivated by China’s 2013 pledge to reduce emissions from heavily polluting industries by 30% before the end of 2017. Earlier this month, the country ramped up environmental pledges at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party, announcing an ambitious plan to reduce the concentration of hazardous fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from 47 micrograms in 2016, to 35 in 2035, reported Xinhua, the China’s official press agency.

By Paul Davies and Michael Green

Six Portuguese children are raising funds to sue 47 European countries, asserting that their right to life has been threatened because governments have allegedly failed to adequately deal with climate change.

With the support of lawyers from the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), the children will ask nations in the suit to strengthen their emissions reduction policies, and to commit to keeping the majority of their existing fossil fuel reserves “in the ground”. The 47 countries targeted by the legal action are collectively responsible for approximately 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and include Europe’s “major emitters”, such as Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.

The children, who are between 5 and 14 years old, claim to have been directly affected by Portugal’s worst-ever forest fires in Leirria this summer, which resulted in more than 60 fatalities. Climate change is thought to have exacerbated the Iberian Peninsula’s extreme heatwave that extended the wildfire season from two months (July and August) to five months (June to October).