Michael Liang, Director of Inogen Associate, ESD China, reports on China's new Environmental Protection Law.
On April 24th, the revised Environmental Protection Law of China was approved at the eighth meeting of the National People's Congress (NPC), and promulgated as Presidential OrderNo.9 signed by President Xi Jinping, due to take effect from January 1st, 2015.
It is the first time in 25 years that China has revised its top legislation on environmental protection. The revision has gone through 2 open consultations and 4 readings which have taken 3 years to complete. The changes made to the Law are so significant that it is considered the toughest administrative law in a specialized field among other existing laws in China. Major breakthroughs can be seen in the following aspects:
- Clarity of government responsibility;
- Increased punishment of illegal pollution discharge and other environmental violations
- Increased information disclosure by government and encouragement of social coordination.
The reason the revised Law is called "the toughest" is due to the inclusion of a series of severe penalties, including:
- Administrative detention, environmental protection departments are entitled to close down or impound pollutant discharging facilities and equipment causing severe pollution.
- In the case where an order of rectification is given but not responded to, daily fines will be imposed without any cap on total.
- Officials neglecting their duty will be demoted or dismissed to assume responsibility.
Under the revised Law the licensing system will be enhanced to control the total amount of waste discharge throughout China. Regulatory enforcement will be increased to better protect important ecological zones, sensitive ecological niches and vulnerable areas, based on investigation and assessment results.
With regard to public events on environmental pollution (e.g. smog), Article 47 of the revised Law puts forward more requirements on the monitoring and warning system.
2008 High Contrast EPL Amendment has a whole chapter on information disclosure, public participation and environmental litigations by NGOs.