The Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People's Republic of China (MEP), formerly State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), is a cabinet-level ministry in the executive branch of the Government of China. It replaced the SEPA during the March 2008 National People's Congress sessions in Beijing.
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. In addition, it also serves as China's nuclear safety agency.
In 1972, Chinese representatives attended the First United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Sweden. The next year, 1973, saw the establishment of the Environmental Protection Leadership Group. 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.
There are 12 offices and departments under MEP, all at the si (司) level in the government ranking system. They carry out regulatory tasks in different areas and make sure that the agency is functioning accordingly:
|General Administrative Office||(办公厅)|
|Department of Human Resources & Institutional Affairs||(行政体制与人事司)|
|Department of Planning and Finance||(规划与财务司)|
|Department of Policies, Laws and Regulations||(政策法规司)|
|Department of Science & Technology and Standards||(科技标准司)|
|Pollution Control Office||(污染控制司)|
|Natural Ecosystem Protection Office||(自然生态保护司)|
|Department of Environmental Impact Assessment||(环境影响评价管理司)|
|International Cooperation Office||(国际合作司)|
|Department of Nuclear Safety||(核安全管理司)|
|Environmental Inspection Office||(环境监察局)|
|Office of Agency & Party Affairs||(机关党委)|
|Administrator/ Minister:||Chen Jining|
|Vice-Minister:||Pan Yue (潘岳)|
|Head of Discipline:||Zhu Guangyao (祝光耀)|
|Vice-Minister:||Zhang Lijun (张力军)|
|Vice-Minister:||Wu Xiaochun (吴晓青)|
|Vice-Minister:||Zhou Jian (周建)|
|Vice-Minister, Bureau Chief for Nuclear Safety:||Li Ganjie (李干杰)|
Minister Xie Zhenhua resigned in December 2005 amidst an industrial pollution scandal by PetroChina, a Chinese national oil company, on the Songhua River in the northeastern province Heilongjiang; local environmental protection officials were accused of protectionism, while senior officials at SEPA were blamed for their underestimating and ignoring the matter.
The Vice-Minister, Pan Yue (潘岳), who has served in SEPA with Xie and is still in power, has been one of the most vocal high-level officials in the Chinese government critical of the current development model. He warned during an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel in 2005 that "the Chinese miracle will end soon" if sustainable issues were not addressed urgently.
In 2006, SEPA opened five regional centers to help with local inspections and enforcement. Today, the five centers are direct affiliates of MEP:
|Region||Head Office||Enforcement Area|
|Eastern Center||Nanjing||Shanghai, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Anhui, Fujian, Jiangxi, and Shandong.|
|Southern Center||Guangzhou||Hunan, Hubei, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan.|
|Northwestern Center||Xi'an||Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang, and Ningxia.|
|Southwestern Center||Chengdu||Chongqing, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan, and Tibet.|
|Northeastern Center||Shenyang||Liaoning, Jining, and Heilongjiang.|
|MEP headquarters||Beijing||Beijing, Tianjing, Hebei, Henan, Shanxi, and Inner Mongolia.|
MEP regulates water quality, ambient air quality, solid waste, soil, noise, radioactivity. In the area of R&D activities, MEP has funded a series of "Key Laboratories" in different parts of the country, including: Laboratory for Urban Air Particles Pollution Prevention and Control for Environmental Protection, Laboratory on Environment and Health, Laboratory on Industrial Ecology, Laboratory on Wetland Ecology and Vegetation Recovery, and Laboratory on Biosafety.
In addition, MEP also administers engineering and technical research centers related to environmental protection, including: Center for Non-ferrous Metal Industrial Pollution Control, Center for Clean Coal and Ecological Recovery of Mines, Center for Industrial Waste Water Pollution Control, Center for Industrial Flue Gas Control, Center for Hazardous Waste Treatment, and Center for Solid Waste Treatment and Disposal of Mines.
China is experiencing an increase in environmental complaints: In 2005, there were 51,000 disputes over environmental pollution, according to SEPA minister Zhou Shengxian. 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.
Vice minister Pan Yue, a former journalist, said in an interview with http://www.chinadialogue.net that the fundamental cause of the worsening global environmental crisis "...is the capitalist system. The environmental crisis has become a new means of transferring the economic crisis.". He believes China's role in the environmental crisis "... has arisen, basically, because our mode of economic modernisation has been copied from western, developed nations. In 30 years, China has achieved economic results that took a century to attain in the West. But we have also concentrated a century’s worth of environmental issues into those 30 years. While becoming the world leader in GDP growth and foreign investment, we have also become the world’s number one consumer of coal, oil and steel – and the largest producer of CO2 and chemical oxygen demand (COD) emissions.".
After a North Korean nuclear test, the Ministry of Environmental Protection issued a press release "to reassure residents that no radioactive particles had been detected in aerosol samples collected" in the Northeast region.
|№||Name||Took office||Left office|
|Director of State Environmental Protection Agency|
|1||Qu Geping||1987||June 1993|
|2||Xie Zhenhua||June 1993||March 1998|
|Director of State Environmental Protection Administration|
|(2)||Xie Zhenhua||March 1998||December 2005|
|3||Zhou Shengxian||December 2005||March 2008|
|Minister of Environmental Protection|
|(3)||Zhou Shengxian||March 2008||February 2015|
|4||Chen Jining||February 2015||June 2017|
|5||Li Ganjie||June 2017||Incumbent|