Environmental policy in China is set by the National People's Congress and managed by the Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People's Republic of China. The Center for American Progress has described China's environmental policy as similar to that of the United States before 1970. That is, the central government issues fairly strict regulations, but the actual monitoring and enforcement is largely undertaken by local governments that have greater interest in economic growth. The environmental work of non-governmental forces, such as lawyers, journalists, and non-governmental organizations, is limited by government regulations. Under the Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People's Republic of China, the Department of Policies, Laws and Regulations is in charge of establishing and strengthening basic laws and policies such as environmental laws, administrative policies and economical regulations. It is also responsible for the development of national environmental protection policy and macro strategy.
China's rapid economic expansion combined with the country's relaxed environmental oversight has caused a number of ecological problems. In response to public pressure, the national government has undertaken a number of measures to curb pollution in China and improve the country's environmental situation. However, the government's response has been criticized as inadequate. Encouraged by national policy that judges regions solely by their economic development, corrupt and unwilling local authorities have hampered enforcement. Nonetheless, in April 2014, the government amended its environmental law to better fight pollution.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), formerly the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), is a cabinet-level ministry in the executive branch of the Chinese Government that is responsible for implementing environmental policies, as well as the enforcement of environmental laws and regulations. The Ministry is tasked with protecting China's air, water, and land from pollution and contamination. Directly under the State Council, it is empowered and required by law to implement environmental policies and enforce environmental laws and regulations. Complementing its regulatory role, it funds and organizes research and development. There are 20 offices and departments under MEP including General Office, Department of Planning and Finance, Department of Policies, Laws and Regulations, Department of Human Resources Management and Institutional Arrangement, Department of Science, Technology and Standards Department of Environmental Impact Assessment, Department of Environmental Monitoring, Department of Water Environment Management, Department of Air Environment Management, Department of Soil Environment Management, Department of Nature and Ecology Conservation, Department of Nuclear Facility Safety Regulation, Department of Nuclear Power Safety Regulation, Department of Radiation Source Safety Regulation Bureau of Environmental Supervision and Inspection, Department of International Cooperation, Department of Education and Communications, The MEP Committee of Communist Party of China, Office of the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection at MEP. All 20 offices are at the judicial level in the government ranking system. They carry out regulatory tasks in different areas and make sure that the agency is functioning accordingly. Since 2006, there have been five regional centers to help with local inspections and enforcement.
In 1972, Chinese representatives attended the first United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. The next year, the Environmental Protection Leadership Group was established. In 1983, the Chinese government announced that environmental protection would become a state policy. In 1998, China went through a disastrous year of serious flooding, and the Chinese government upgraded the Leading Group to a ministry-level agency, which then became the State Environmental Protection Administration.
According to the Chinese government website, the Central Government invested more than 40 billion yuan between 1998 and 2001 on protection of vegetation, farm subsidies, and conversion of farm to forests. Between 1999 and 2002, China converted 7.7 million hectares of farmland into forest.
From 2001 to 2005, Chinese environmental authorities received more than 2.53 million letters and 430,000 visits by 597,000 petitioners seeking environmental redress. Meanwhile, the number of mass protests caused by concerns over environmental issues grew steadily from 2001 to 2007. The increased attention on environmental matters caused the Chinese government to display an increased level of concern towards environmental issues. For example, in his 2007 annual address Wen Jiabao, the Premier of the People's Republic of China, made 48 references to "environment," "pollution," and "environmental protection", and stricter environmental regulations were subsequently implemented. Subsidies for some polluting industries were cancelled, while other polluting industries were shut down. However, many internal environmental targets were missed.
After the 2007 address, the influence of corruption was a hindrance to effective enforcement, as local authorities ignored orders and hampered the effectiveness of central decisions. In response, CPC General Secretary Hu Jintao implemented the "Green G.D.P." project, where China's gross domestic product was adjusted to compensate for negative environmental effects; however, the program quickly lost official influence due to unfavorable data. The project's lead researcher claimed that provincial leaders "do not like to be lined up and told how they are not meeting the leadership’s goals ... They found it difficult to accept this." The government attempted to hold national "No Car Days" where cars were banned from central roads, but the action was largely ignored. In 2008, the State Environmental Protection Administration was official replaced by the Ministry of Environmental Protection during the March National People's Congress sessions in Beijing.
Citizen activism regarding government decisions that are perceived as environmentally damaging increased in the 2010s. In April 2012, protests occurred in the southern town of Yinggehai following the announcement of a power plant project. The protesters initially succeeded in halting the project, worth 3.9 billion renminbi (£387m). Another town was selected for the location of the plant, but when the residents in the second location also resisted the authorities returned to Yinggehai. A second round of protests occurred in October 2012 and police clashed with protester, leading to 50 arrests and almost 100 injuries. In response to a waste pipeline for a paper factory in the city of Qidong, several thousand demonstrators protested in July 2012. Sixteen of the protesters were sentenced to between twelve and eighteen months in prison; however, thirteen were granted a reprieve on the grounds that they had confessed and repented. In total, more than 50,000 environmental protests occurred in China during 2012.
In response to an increasing air pollution problem, the Chinese government announced a five-year, US$277 billion plan to address the issue in 2013. Northern China will receive particular attention, as the government aims to reduce air emissions by 25 percent by 2017, compared with 2012 levels.
In March 2014, CPC General Secretary Xi Jinping "declared war" on pollution during the opening of the National People's Congress. After extensive debate lasting nearly two years, the parliament approved a new environmental law in April. The new law empowers environmental enforcement agencies with great punitive power, defines areas which require extra protection, and gives independent environmental groups more ability to operate in the country. The new articles of the law specifically address air pollution, and call for additional government oversight. Lawmaker Xin Chunying called the law "a heavy blow [in the fight against] our country's harsh environmental realities, and an important systemic construct". Three previous versions of the bill were voted down. The bill is the first revision to the environmental protection law since 1989.
When the new environmental protection provisions go into effect in January 2015, the government's environmental agencies will be allowed to enforce strict penalties and seize property of illegal polluters. Companies that break the law will be "named and shamed", with company executives subject to prison sentences of 15 days. There will be no upper limit on fines; previously, it was often cheaper for companies to pay the meager fines provisioned by the law than install anti-pollution measures. In all, the new law has 70 provisions, compared to the 47 of the existing law. More than 300 different groups will be able to sue on the behalf of people harmed by pollution. It remains to be seen whether these changes to the law will overcome some of the traditional problems with environmental litigation in China, such as difficulty getting cases accepted by the court, trouble gathering evidence and interference from local government.
Under the new law, local governments will be subject to discipline for failing to enforce environmental laws. Regions will no longer be judged solely on their economic progress, but instead must balance progress with environmental protection. Additionally, local governments will be required to disclose environmental information to the public. Individuals are encouraged to "adopt a low-carbon and frugal lifestyle and perform environmental protection duties" such as recycling their garbage under the law.
In June 2017, the Chinese government made a second amendment to the Water Pollution Prevention Act. Based on the first regulation of Water Pollution Prevention Act in 1996, the amendment will increase the punishment for water pollution and the penalty ceiling may be raised to 1 million yuan. According to the statement of the Minister of Environmental Protection, the second revised version further strengthened the responsibilities of local governments, and refined and improved the drinking water safety protection system. Since the legislation in 1984, this law has made a significant and positive contribution to improving the water environment in China. However, the quality of water environment in China is still not promising.
A number of different classes of protected areas are recognized under Chinese law. National, provincial, and local governments all have the power to designate areas as protected. Regardless of designation, most enforcement is made at the local level.
China is facing three major water resources problems: water pollution, shortage of water resources and waste of water resources. The problem with water resources will be China's obstacles to achieve sustainable development in the 21st century. The government has begun to deal with water resources problems since 1970s, establishing water pollution control and environment protection agencies.
China ranks 5th globally in terms of water resources but the water resource per capita is less than 1/3 the world average. The Chinese government implemented two policies to alleviate the water shortage issues;supporting the South-North Water Diversion Project and improving water use efficiency. The government has provided funding for the South-North Water Diversion Project, which aims to bring 44.8 billion cubic meters of water to Beijing and other northern parts of China. The project will cause disruption to local inhabitants forcing the migration of nearly one million people. The total cost of this project is estimated at $62 billion. In 2010, the Communist Party of China and the State Council set policies to change ways of using water and improve water use efficiency. The central government had invested 1.8 trillion yuan to enable efficient water use by upgrading both agriculture irrigation systems and clean water systems in rural areas.
Besides the water shortage, the water quality is also an issue which has influenced public health and led to political disputes. Only less than half of all water resources meets the safe drinking water standards in China. Besides political oppositions between regions, the current government structure is also a barrier for water pollution control.
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment of the People's Republic of China is a relatively young ministry. It is assigned relatively less power and fewer employees than other existing ministries, which results in its heavy dependence on local environmental protection bureaus (EPB). The problem is that local EPBs do not only get controlled by higher EPB but also by local governments whose performance is assessed mainly by economic development. Therefore, the local governments have loose policies on companies that producing water pollution. Additionally, the financial support of EPBs comes from pollution fines instead of the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, which makes it difficult for the ministry to manage local EPBs.
Various forms of pollution have increased as China has industrialized, causing widespread environmental and health problems. In January 2013, fine airborne particulates rose as high as 993 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing, compared with World Health Organization guidelines of no more than 25. Heavy industry, dominated by state-owned enterprises, has been promoted since the beginning of central planning and still has many special privileges such as access to cheap energy and loans. The industry possesses considerable power to resist environmental regulation.
At the end of August 2015, Chinese government has issued the Air Pollution Control Law, which will be implemented starting 2016. Experts believe that although the law is inevitably flawed in some aspects, if 80% of the law can be implemented, it is going to significantly improve the air quality. This law has been scrutinized three times. Compared to the revised Air Pollution Control Law in 2000, the new version doubled the entries. Almost all the laws in the current version has been amended and revised to fit the current situation.
Based on 2015's China Environmental Bulletin published by the Chinese government, in 2015 the national urban air quality is getting better. The first implementation of the new air quality standards has made the PM 2.5 average concentration decreased by 14.1% compared to the year of 2014. The Ministry of Finance established a fund of 10.6 billion Yuan to improve the air quality and to control the air pollution around the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei and the surrounding areas, Yangtze River, and other key areas. The government is also actively promoting renewable energy vehicles with an annual production of 390,000, four times more than the production in 2014.
Soil pollution problems, which is the land surface degradation caused by the abuse of resources and land caused by human activities, together with corresponding protection measures in China have occurred in recent decades. In total, nearly 16.1% 0f China's soil was polluted. These pollutions have caused a serious impact on the growth of crops and the health of the people. In terms of related policies, the Chinese government decided to draw on the successful examples of other countries and integrate China's national conditions to maintain long-term governance of soil pollution problems. From the 1980s to the 1990s, China began to work on soil environmental research by starting the Modern conservation tillage research with the support of Australia. From 2000 to now, the problem of soil pollution in China has become increasingly serious. The government has gradually put the prevention and control of soil pollution issues and other environmental protection issues in the first place by charging fines for polluted factories.
China conducted a large-scale soil quality sampling analysis nationwide from 2005 to 2013， and according to the National Soil Pollution Survey Bulletin promulgated by the Ministry of Environmental Protection of China in 2014, the total national soil exceedance rate (the percentage that exceeds the upper limit value) was 16.1%, of which slight, slight, moderate and heavy degree of pollution spot is 11.2%, 2.3%, 1.5% and 1.1%, respectively. From the point of view of pollution distribution, soil pollution in the south is heavier than in the north. The soil pollution problems in some regions such as the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta, and the old industrial base in Northeast China are more severe. The soil in the southwest and south-central regions has exceeded the upper limit of heavy metals tolerance. The contents of the four inorganic pollutants such as cadmium, mercury, arsenic, and lead have gradually increased from northwest China to southeast China and from northeast China to southwest China. As far as the current state of legislation is concerned, China already has air pollution prevention and control law and water pollution control law, but it still lacks a soil pollution control law. In June 2017, the Ministry of Environmental Protection pointed out that China will establish a more refined working mechanism, continue to carry out investigation of soil pollution, promote the improvement of the legislative system, and fully cooperate with the National People's Congress in the legislation on soil pollution control law.
China's lax environmental oversight has contributed to its environmental problems. Sixteen of the world's twenty most polluted cities are found in China. Government response has been criticized as inadequate. An official report released in 2014, found that 20% of the country's farmland, and 16% of its soil overall, is polluted. An estimated 60% of the groundwater is polluted.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, China has shown great determination to "develop, implement, and enforce a solid environmental law framework" However, the impact of such efforts is not yet clear. The harmonization of Chinese society and the natural environment is billed as one of the country's top national priorities.
International groups called the law revision passed in April 2014 a positive development, but cautioned seeing the laws through to implementation would be a challenge.
Because China does not have a fully established legal system, enterprise executives base their environmental practices largely on perceptions about regulators rather than concerns for legal issues, according to a 2014 study published in Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. One executive interviewed said that China's environmental regulations were “comprehensive” but yet “vague,” leaving local officials with large discretion in terms of enforcement. If executives think local officials may arbitrarily target their enterprises for enforcement, they are likely to adopt proactive practices, such as “developing certifiable environmental management systems,” but not basic ones, such as waste recycling.
The 2005 Huashui protest took place in Huashui (画水) Town, Dongyang (东阳) County, Zhejiang Province (浙江省) in March and April 2005. The Huashui protest began as opposition to pollution from the Zhuxi Chemical Industrial Park (竹溪工业园), which had been affecting villages in the area since its construction in 2001. After the Dongyang County leadership intervened by sending in officials and police officers to disperse the protesters in what is known as the “April 10th Incident,” the protest developed to oppose the local government’s repression, too.The protest was notable for its participants, mostly elderly residents of the most seriously affected site Huaxi (花溪) No. 5 village, for the theatrical tactics employed by protestors, and for its success in shutting down 11 of the 13 factories in the chemical park.Chai Jing
Chai Jing (Chinese: 柴静; pinyin: Chái Jìng; born on January 1, 1976) is a Chinese journalist, former television host, author and environmental activist.
In 1995, Chai began her broadcast career as a radio host in Hunan Province. From 2001 to 2013, she worked for China Central Television (CCTV) as a well respected investigative reporter and host. In 2012 she published an autobiography, Insight (Chinese: 看见; pinyin: kànjiàn), which has sold more than 1 million copies.
In 2014, Chai undertook an independent investigation into China's environmental problems, which culminated in a self-financed documentary called Under the Dome (Chinese: 穹顶之下; pinyin: qióng dǐng zhī xià). By March 3, 2015, the film had garnered over 150 million views in China, sparking widespread discussion about pollution and environmental policy in China. The film was blocked on Chinese websites by the authorities on March 7, 2015. In 2015 she was also named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people.China Beijing Environmental Exchange
China Beijing Environmental Exchange (CBEEX) is a corporate domestic and international environmental equity public trading platform initiated by the China Beijing Equity Exchange (CBEX) and authorized by the Beijing municipal government.
In June 2009, the CBEEX signed a deal with BlueNext to build a platform for carbon credit trade. BlueNext is Europe's largest carbon credit exchange and is owned jointly by NYSE Euronext and French state-owned bank Caisse des Dépôts.China RoHS
China RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances), officially known as Administrative Measure on the Control of Pollution Caused by Electronic Information Products is a Chinese government regulation to control certain materials, including lead.
All items shipped to China now have to be marked as to whether the items contained in the box are compliant or non-compliant. The Electronic Information Products (EIP) logo or other label is used to mark parts and assemblies that do not contain unacceptable amounts of substances identified by the regulations, and that are environmentally safe. Units that do contain hazardous substances are marked with the EIP logo including an Environment Friendly Use Period (EFUP) value in years.Chinese national carbon trading scheme
The Chinese national carbon trading scheme is a cap and trade system for carbon dioxide emissions set to be implemented by the end of 2017. This emission trading scheme (ETS) creates a carbon market where emitters can buy and sell emission credits. From this scheme, China can limit emissions, but allow economic freedom for emitters to reduce emissions or purchase emission allowances from other emitters. China is currently the largest emitter of greenhouse gases and many major Chinese cities have severe air pollution. With this plan, China will soon be the largest market in carbon trading. The scheme will limit emissions from six of China's top carbon dioxide emitting industries, including coal-fired power plants. China was able to gain experience in drafting and implementation of an ETS plan from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where China was part of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). From this experience with carbon markets, and lengthy discussions with the next largest carbon market, the European Union (EU), as well as analysis of small scale pilot markets in major Chinese cities and provinces, China's national ETS will be the largest of its kind and will help China achieve its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) from the Paris Agreement in 2016.Ecological civilization
Ecological civilization is the final goal of social and environmental reform within a given society. It implies that the changes required in response to global climate disruption and social injustices are so extensive as to represent another form of human civilization, one based on ecological principles. Broadly construed, ecological civilization involves a synthesis of economic, educational, political, agricultural, and other societal reforms toward sustainability.Although the term was first coined in the 1980s, it did not see widespread use until 2007, when “ecological civilization” became an explicit goal of the Communist Party of China (CPC). In April 2014, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the International Ecological Safety Collaborative Organization founded a sub-committee on ecological civilization. Proponents of ecological civilization agree with Pope Francis who writes, "We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature." As such, ecological civilization emphasizes the need for major environmental and social reforms that are both long-term and systemic in orientation.Environment of China
The environment of China (Chinese: 中国的环境) comprises diverse biotas, climates, and geologies. Rapid industrialization, population growth, and lax environmental oversight have caused many environmental issues and large-scale pollution.Environmental governance in China
Detailed accounts of the impact of economic development on China's environmental landscape through the century have been provided by scholars, many of whom are Chinese. By the mid-1800s, wide swaths of northern China were desert; deforestation and poor agricultural practices had degraded vast tracts of land; overuse had depleted fish stocks; and small-scale factories had begun to pollute the country's water resources. Additionally, the pressures of China's burgeoning population and frequent wars, which took their own serious toll on the environment, compounded the challenge of China's development.However, by the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries, there was an explosive growth in China's economy. New government policies encouraged the privatisation of agriculture, the wholesale urbanisation of China's rural population, the development of tens of thousands of small-scale rural industries and an influx of international investment. The results have been staggering: hundreds of millions of Chinese have been lifted out of poverty; China's economy continues to grow at a rate of 8–12 per cent annually, as it has for two decades and by the end of 2005, China was the fourth largest economy and third largest exporting nation in the world, after the United States and Germany. Nevertheless, China's environment paid a steep price for this economic growth. Water pollution, air pollution, and soil degradation pose enormous threat to ecosystems and human health. However, these issues are being taken seriously by the Chinese government and are now being incorporated into policies and plans at the highest level.Just as rapid economic growth, so is environmental governance system in China rapidly changing; resulting in new environmental institutions and practices. State authorities rule increasingly via laws and decentralise environmental policymaking and implementation. Non-state actors –both private companies and (organised) citizens – are given and taking more responsibilities and tasks in environmental governance. New relations have developed between state, market and civil society in environmental governance, with more emphasis on efficiency and legitimacy.Environmental issues in China
Environmental issues in China are plentiful, severely affecting the country's biophysical environment and human health. Rapid industrialisation, as well as lax environmental oversight, are main contributors to these problems.
The Chinese government has acknowledged the problems and made various responses, resulting in some improvements, but the responses have been criticized as inadequate. In recent years, there has been increased citizens' activism against government decisions that are perceived as environmentally damaging, and a retired official from the Communist Party of China has reported that the year of 2012 saw over 50,000 environmental protests in China.Environmental politics
Environmental politics designate both the politics about the environment (see also environmental policy) and an academic field of study focused on three core components:
The study of political theories and ideas related to the environment;
The examination of the environmental stances of both mainstream political parties and environmental social movements; and
The analysis of public policymaking and implementation affecting the environment, at multiple geo-political levels.Neil Carter, in his foundational text Politics of the Environment (2009), suggests that environmental politics is distinct in at least two ways: first, "it has a primary concern with the relationship between human society and the natural world" (page 3); and second, "unlike most other single issues, it comes replete with its own ideology and political movement" (page 5, drawing on Michael Jacobs, ed., Greening the Millenium?, 1997).Further, he distinguishes between modern and earlier forms of environmental politics, in particular conservationism and preservationism. Contemporary environmental politics "was driven by the idea of a global ecological crisis that threatened the very existence of humanity." And "modern environmentalism was a political and activist mass movement which demanded a radical transformation in the values and structures of society."Environmental concerns were rooted in the vast social changes that took place in the United States after World War II. Although environmentalism can be identified in earlier years, only after the war did it become widely shared social priority. This began with outdoor recreation in the 1950s, extended into the wider field of the protection of natural environments, and then became infused with attempts to cope with air and water pollution and still later with toxic chemical pollutants. After World War II, environmental politics became a major public concern. The development of environmentalism in the United Kingdom emerged in this period following the great London smog of 1952 and the Torrey Canyon oil spill of 1967. This is reflected by the emergence of Green politics in the Western world beginning in the 1970s.Global Environment and Trade Study
The Global Environment & Trade Study (GETS) was a non-profit research institute established in 1994 to study the complex linkages between international trade and environmental sustainability. GETS supported numerous research projects on the legal, economic, and ecological aspects of trade and environment.
GETS was centered at Yale University.GETS also studied the expanding role of civil society in global governance.
In 2004, the GETS Board decided that a sufficient amount had been accomplished over the decade, and that it was time to terminate the project.Indian environmental law
Indian environmental law concerns the law and policy of India concerning the protection of the environment, measures taken to reverse climate change and achieve a zero carbon economy.Ministry of Ecology and Environment
The Ministry of Ecology and Environment, formerly the Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People's Republic of China (MEP), and prior to 2008 known as the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), is a department of the State Council of the People's Republic of China. It superseded the MEP in 2018.The Ministry is the nation's environmental protection department charged with the task of protecting China's air, water, and land from pollution and contamination. Directly under the State Council, it is empowered and required by law to implement environmental policies and enforce environmental laws and regulations. Complementing its regulatory role, it funds and organizes research and development. It also has jurisdiction over China's nuclear safety agency.National People's Congress Environment Protection and Resources Conservation Committee
The National People's Congress Environment Protection and Resources Conservation Committee (simplified Chinese: 全国人民代表大会环境与资源保护委员会; traditional Chinese: 全國人民代表大會環境與資源保護委員會; pinyin: Quánguó Rénmín Dàibiǎo Dàhuì Huánjìng Yŭ Zīyuán Bǎohù Wěiyuánhuì) is one of nine special committees of the National People's Congress, the national legislature of the People's Republic of China. The special committee was created during the first session of the 8th National People's Congress in March 1993, and has existed for every National People's Congress since.Regulation and monitoring of pollution
To protect the environment from the adverse effects of pollution, many nations worldwide have enacted legislation to regulate various types of pollution as well as to mitigate the adverse effects of pollution.Soil contamination
Soil contamination or soil pollution as part of land degradation is caused by the presence of xenobiotics (human-made) chemicals or other alteration in the natural soil environment. It is typically caused by industrial activity, agricultural chemicals or improper disposal of waste. The most common chemicals involved are petroleum hydrocarbons, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (such as naphthalene and benzo(a)pyrene), solvents, pesticides, lead, and other heavy metals. Contamination is correlated with the degree of industrialization and intensity of chemical substance.
The concern over soil contamination stems primarily from health risks, from direct contact with the contaminated soil, vapours from the contaminants, and from secondary contamination of water supplies within and underlying the soil. Mapping of contaminated soil sites and the resulting cleanups are time consuming and expensive tasks, requiring extensive amounts of geology, hydrology, chemistry, computer modeling skills, and GIS in Environmental Contamination, as well as an appreciation of the history of industrial chemistry.In North America and Western Europe the extent of contaminated land is best known, with many of countries in these areas having a legal framework to identify and deal with this environmental problem. Developing countries tend to be less tightly regulated despite some of them having undergone significant industrialization.