China’s updated Environmental Protection Law came into force on 1 January 2015. This was the first time that this fundamental statute was revised since it was enacted in 1989, a reflection of the Chinese government’s awareness that during the past three decades, the country has been sacrificing environmental quality for the sake of economic development.
A report by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency found that by 2006, China had become the world’s leading emitter of carbon emissions, at volumes seven percent higher by volume than the United States. The new law recognises both China’s global responsibilities and the reality that unless China can solve or ameliorate its environmental problems, the Chinese Dream will become a nightmare.
The amended Environmental Protection Law stipulates heavier fines, naming and shaming of companies that break the law, and punishment of local government officials who don’t enforce the law. It allows Chinese NGOs to file lawsuits against polluters on behalf of the public, and provides confidentiality to whistleblowers to encourage public participation. It also requires that information about environmental monitoring—including the specific pollutants discharged, the collection and use of discharge fees and so on—be published.