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Environmental Governance and

Sustainable Development
Achievements, Drawbacks and Further
Development of Environmental Law in China

CAI Shouqiu
Professor in Law, Wuhan University
President of China Environmental Law Society

Achievements of environmental law in China
Drawbacks of environmental law in China
Further development

Achievements of EL in China
Prominent achievements in environmental law
in China have been gained since the
foundation of this country in 1949, particularly
since Reform and Opening up in 1978.

1. Environmental legal system,horizontally and

vertically, has been built up
10 pieces of laws on pollution control
14 pieces of laws on nature conservation and
resource (including energy) utilization
20 pieces of other relevant law
1600 pieces of departmental rules and resolutions
10 pieces of military law and regulations
1100 pieces of national standards on environmental

60 treaties on environmental protection and

nature conservation
40 pieces of bilateral environmental
agreements and memorandum of
understanding on environmental affairs
10 bilateral environmental agreements or
memorandum of understanding on nuclear

Special committees ,say Committee on Environment

and Resource, which are in charge of environmental
legislation and related issues are set up by National
Peoples Congress and Chinese Peoples Political
Consultative Conference.

Ministries and committees specifically responsible for

the functioning of environmental law are also
established in State Council.

2 Sustainable development, which is

characterized by integration, environmental
democracy, ethic concern, and economic tools
within the social and cultural context in the
country, has become a guiding notion for
environmental law in China.

Priority of environmental law in ensuring

sustainable development

New concepts such as prevention, precaution,

life-cycle management, clean production,
source control, quantity management and
recycling economy all demonstrate Chinas
objective and practical endeavors to
sustainable development.

Sustainable development is depicted in some

legal documents
Chinas Agenda 21: White Paper on Chinas Population,

Environment, and Development in the 21st Century

Land Administrative Law of P. R. C
Marine Environment Protection Law of P. R. C (revised in 1999)
Law of P. R. C. on Prevention and Control of Atmospheric
Pollution (revised in 2000)
Law of the P. R. C. on Prevention and Control of Desertification
Law of P. R. C. on cleaner production (2002)
Law on EIA (2002), Law of P. R. C. on Prevention and Control
of Water Pollution (revised in 2008)
Water Law (revised in 2002)
Law on Promotion of Recycling Economy (2008)

3. The emergence of environmental governance

in China
Article 6 of the Environmental Protection Law of P. R.
C. stipulates that every individual and entity has a duty
of care for environment, they also have the right to
accuse polluters and those who brings other damages
to the environment. This is the principle base for public
participation in environmental protection.

Chinas Agenda 21, Decision of the State Council on

Several Issues of Environmental Protection (1996),
Legislation Law (2000), Regulation on Procedure of
Making Administrative Regulation (2001), Regulation
on Procedure of Making Rules (2001), Regulation on
Disclosure of Government Information (2007), Interim
Measures on Disclosure of Environmental Information
(2007), Environmental Protection Law and so force
have provisions on public participation and
environmental information disclosure.

Interim Measure on Disclosure of Environmental

Information enacted on April 4th, 2007 provides the
administration, principle, scope and procedure with
respect to environmental information disclosure. It also
explicate requirement of information disclosure by
industries, and the inspection need.

4 Basic principles and basic regulatory regime are

gradually developed
integration of economic, social and environmental concerns;

integration of exploitation, utilization, protection and

improvement; precautionary and preventative principle; PPP;
Principle of public participation

environmental standard; Environmental Impact Assessment;

administrative permit; mandatory construction of pollution control

facilities; emission registration; fixed-time treatment;
environmental emergency response etc..

5 Roles of environmental law in environmental

protection, New-society construction and international
environmental corporation
Provides legal basis for environmental government of the
Protects citizens from pollution, resource shortage and other
environmental degradation
Integrates economic, social and environmental dimensions
Educates people and helps to improve their environmental
Offers foundation to corporation within international

6 Environmental law education in China

In nowadays China, environmental law has become a
new, cross-cutting whereas independent discipline.
Since 1970s, it was growing as one of the most active
areas in legal research and education. Special
regulative system, concepts and theoretic framework
come into place in the last few decades.

67 master degree programs and 15 doctoral degree programs in

environmental law are established up to 2008;

1,000 graduate students for master degree and another 100 for
doctoral degree enroll every year;
Environmental Law Society have successfully hold 11 annual
conferences with more than 200 participants;
100 professors and several hundreds of associate professors,
lecturers and doctorate students;
Research Institute of Environmental Law, co-founded by State
Environmental Protection Administration (renamed as Ministry of
Environmental Protection in 2008) and Wuhan University is a
National key Discipline as well as Key Research Institute of
Humanities and Social Science approved by MOE.

Drawbacks of EL in China
1. Drawbacks in Environmental legislation
Incomplete environmental legal system
Regulatory gap and weakness
Unenforceable provisions
Insufficient regulation on governmental behavior
Ignorance to environmental governance and
environmental good governance
Weak government environmental responsibilities
Too nice to offenders

2. Drawbacks in functioning of environmental


Not all the laws and regulations are complied with,

not all of them are strictly implemented, not all
behaviors against the law are prosecuted
Heavily fragmented administration.
Over-reliance on power overshadows faith in law.
Outside disturbances, such as bribe, pressure or
private relationship result in defective functioning of
environmental law in China.

The courts role within the process is far from


Unregulated governmental liability and

environmental localism are two prominent barriers.

Disobedience to environmental law prevails in

current China.

Further development
1 Environmental legislation
Umbrella environmental legal system
Current Environmental Protection Law of P. R. C
New legislations on soil pollution, chemical
management, wetland protection, natural reserve,
coast management, animal protection, river
catchment management etc.

2 Implementation of environmental law

The environment and its environmental protection
administration keeping on dominating implementation
of environmental law. However, transparency,
accountability and efficiency are challenges that they
have to be faced with.

2 Implementation of environmental law

The government and its environmental protection
administration keeping on dominating implementation
of environmental law. However, transparency,
accountability and efficiency are challenges that they
have to be faced with.

Since 2004, environmental courts were set up

successionally in several provincial and local courts in
Hebei, Guizhou, Jiangsu and Yunnan province.
It is worth mentioning that environmental policemen
came into being in Kunming, Yunnan province in last

Up to October 2008, 3539 environmental organizations

have been set up in China, including Hong Kong, Macau,
and Taiwan. 1309 of them are sponsored by government;
1382 of them are school oriented; 508 of them are
grassroot environmental organizations; 90 of them are
division of international environmental organizations.
The total number was increased by 771 compared with
that in 2005. 300 grassroot environmental organizations,
mainly lying in Beijing, Hubei, Yunnan and Xizang, were
also established in the same two years.

3 Future development in environmental


A transcendence from Subject-object Dichotomy

rooted in modern science and society to paradigm of
Subject-object Integration (Subject-object holism)
is vital to future environmental law research. Subjectobject dichotomy is characterized by artificial division
between self-other, human beings and other beings,
idea and matter, I-thou relationship and relationship
with other beings. Subject is mechanistically
equivalent to human beings and object is to other
beings. A conceptual confusion between subject/object
and human beings/other beings is embedded in this
metaphysics. If we explore the core of it, we will
notably find anthropocentrism and human chauvinism.

The conversion from economic man, subjective man

to ecological man helps to escape from worship of
economic growth, superstition of absolute power of
human, and both of which undoubtedly result in
imbalance between human and nature.

The construction of Harmonious

Society Ecological civilization, ResourceEfficient Society, Environment-Friendly Society
and Cycling economy Society provides solid
background and deep insights for environmental law
research. One of them is incorporation of
environmental law and environmental ethics.

Further research on the guiding notion, basic

concepts and basic principles of environmental law
is needed.

Further research on comprehensive regulatory

mechanisms of environmental law including
administrative regulatory mechanism dominated by
government, market mechanism led by enterprises
and social mechanism mainly operated by Nongovernmental Organizations should be enhanced.
Ecological regulatory method and mechanisms in
environmental law within the context of environmental
governance and good governance is one of the most
important ways forward.

Integrated Ecosystem Approach, specified into

Integrated Ecosystem Management in environmental
law and bases on modern theory of Ecology and
Governance is a critical application of ecological
regulatory methods and mechanism.

Researches on regulatory regime, environmental

legal responsibilities, particularly government
environmental responsibilities, public participation and
so force need to be further enhanced. Environmental
liability aiming to prevent and remedy environmental
damages should be paid special attention to among

Thanks for your attention!