A Brief Summary of China’s General Environmental Protection Policies

Since the launch of China’s latest social and economic development masterplan, the 13th five-year plan, environmental governance has become more closely entwined with the macro-level strategic restructuring that the country’s economy has been undergoing since 2016. There has been an accompanying shift in policy thinking during recent years, with ecological and environmental protection now regarded as a priority instead of being mainly economic performance oriented. Concepts like “green growth” and “green development” are placed high on the national policy agenda, with proactive approaches aiming at addressing the root causes of environmental degradation.

  • Market mechanisms and economic incentives are also expected to play a bigger role in effectively managing the conservation of energy and the emission of pollutants. The key environmental policy document of the 13th five-year period, the 13th Five-Year Plan for the Protection of Ecological Environment, highlights the establishment of an emission trading scheme and an environmental tax system as two major means to curb pollutions. The Law on Environmental Protection Tax, replacing previous regulations that employed a fining system, is meant to make it more cost effective for manufacturers to voluntarily invest in emission-reducing activities, as well as to enhance the effectiveness of collection and management by bringing in the finance and tax departments. The Implementing Plan for the Permit System for Controlling Pollutants Emission, on the other hand, lays the institutional and technical foundation for a unified, nationwide emission trading scheme, expected to be in operation in 2020, on the basis of previous regional pilot programs.
  • There has been heavier policy emphasis in recent years on establishing an environmental co-governance system that harnesses public-private partnership and participation of international stakeholders. The Guiding Opinions on Establishing the Green Financial System encourages regional governments to co-launch green development funds with private investors as well as to employ business-facilitating policies to better tap into non-state investment in green industries. In addition, major policy documents such as the 13th Five-Year Science and Technology Development Plan for Environmental Protection underscore the importance of building platforms for the international exchange of environmental technologies, funds, and co-operation on research and development through global and regional economic co-operation frameworks, such as the G20 and the Belt and Road Initiative.

Read other briefs in this Eco-City Tracker Series:

Air Quality: A Brief Summary of China’s Air Protection Policies

Water Quality: A Brief Summary of China’s Water Protection Policies

Solid Waste: A Brief Summary of China’s Soil and Solid Waste Policies

For more information, see a list of recent national-level policies:

  1. Law of the People’s Republic of China on Environment Impact Assessment (revised in 2018) , 中华人民共和国环境影响评价法(2018年修订), http://zfs.mee.gov.cn/fl/201901/t20190111_689247.shtml

  2. Circular Economy Promotion Law of the People’s Republic of China (revised in 2018), 中华人民共和国循环经济促进法(2018年修订), http://zfs.mee.gov.cn/fl/201811/t20181114_673624.shtml

  3. Energy Conservation Law of the People’s Republic of China (revised in 2018), 中华人民共和国节约能源法(2018年修订), http://www.npc.gov.cn/npc/xinwen/2018-11/05/content_2065665.htm

  4. Law of the People’s Republic of China on Environmental Protection Tax (revised in 2018), 中华人民共和国环境保护税法(2018年修订), http://www.npc.gov.cn/npc/xinwen/2018-11/05/content_2065629.htm

  5. Implementing Regulations for the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Environmental Protection Tax, 中华人民共和国环境保护税法实施条例, http://www.chinatax.gov.cn/n810341/n810755/c3002759/content.html

  6. Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Prevention and Control of Desertification (revised in 2018), 中华人民共和国防沙治沙法(2018年修订), http://www.forestry.gov.cn/main/3949/20170314/204737.html

  7. Opinions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council on Strengthening the Protection of the Ecological Environment in All Aspects and Firmly Winning the Battle of Preventing and Controlling Environmental Pollution, 中共中央、国务院关于全面加强生态环境保护 坚决打好污染防治攻坚战的意见, http://www.gov.cn/gongbao/content/2018/content_5303427.htm

  8. Reform Plan for the Ecological Environmental Damage Compensation System, 生态环境损害赔偿制度改革方案, http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/2017-12/17/content_5247952.htm

  9. Regulations on the Administration of Construction Project Environmental Protection (revised in 2017), 建设项目环境保护管理条例(2017年修订), http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2017-08/01/content_5215255.htm

  10. Implementing Plan for the Permit System for Controlling Pollutants Emission, 控制污染物排放许可制实施方案, http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2016-11/21/content_5135510.htm

  11. Guiding Opinions on Establishing the Green Financial System, 关于构建绿色金融体系的指导意见, http://www.scio.gov.cn/32344/32345/35889/36819/xgzc36825/Document/1555348/1555348.htm

  12. Opinions of the General Office of the State Council on Improving the Compensation Mechanism for Ecological Protection, 国务院办公厅关于健全生态保护补偿机制的意见, http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2016-05/13/content_5073049.htm

  13. 13th Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social Development of the People’s Republic of China, 中华人民共和国国民经济和社会发展第十三个五年规划纲要, http://www.ndrc.gov.cn/fzgggz/fzgh/ghwb/gjjh/201612/P020161207635328170224.pdf – English;

    http://www.ndrc.gov.cn/fzgggz/fzgh/ghwb/gjjh/201605/P020160516532684519514.pdf – Chinese

  14. 13th Five-Year Comprehensive Work Plan for Energy Conservation and Emission Reduction, “十三五”节能减排综合工作方案, http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2017-01/05/content_5156789.htm

  15. 13th Five-Year Plan for the Protection of Ecological Environment, “十三五”生态环境保护规划, http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2016-12/05/content_5143290.htm

  16. 13th Five-Year Science and Technology Development Plan for Environmental Protection, 国家环境保护“十三五”科技发展规划纲要, http://www.mee.gov.cn/gkml/hbb/bwj/201611/t20161121_367896.htm

  17. Guiding Opinions on Promoting Green Consumption, 关于促进绿色消费的指导意见, http://www.mee.gov.cn/gzfw_13107/zcfg/hjjzc/gjfbdjjzcx/qtjjzc/201606/t20160623_355542.shtml

  18. Implementing Suggestions on Accelerating the Promotion of Greener Lifestyle, 关于加快推动生活方式绿色化的实施意见, http://www.mee.gov.cn/gkml/hbb/bwj/201511/t20151116_317156.htm

  19. Scheme for Building the Ecological Environment Monitoring Network, 生态环境监测网络建设方案, http://www.mee.gov.cn/home/ztbd/rdzl/gwy/wj/201508/t20150812_308051.shtml

  20. Measures for Public Participation in Environmental Protection, 环境保护公众参与办法, http://www.mee.gov.cn/gkml/hbb/bl/201507/t20150720_306928.htm

  21. Implementing Plan for the Environmental Protection 'Frontrunner' System, 环保“领跑者”制度实施方案, http://www.mee.gov.cn/gzfw_13107/zcfg/hjjzc/gjfbdjjzcx/qtjjzc/201606/P020160623594598243027.pdf

  22. Opinions of the General Office of the State Council on Advocating the Treatment of Environmental Pollution by Third Parties, 国务院办公厅关于推行环境污染第三方治理的意见, http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2015-01/14/content_9392.htm

  23. Implementing Opinions of the Ministry of Environmental Protection on Advocating the Treatment of Environmental Pollution by Third Parties, 环境保护部关于推进环境污染第三方治理的实施意见, http://www.mee.gov.cn/gkml/hbb/bh/201708/t20170816_419759.htm

  24. Environmental Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China (Revised in 2014), 中华人民共和国环境保护法(2014年修订), http://www.nea.gov.cn/2017-11/02/c_136722862.htm

  25. Sustainable Development Planning for National Resource-Based Cities (2013-2020), 全国资源型城市可持续发展规划(2013-2020年), (http://www.gov.cn/zhengce/content/2013-12/02/content_4549.htm)

Prepared by the Sustainable Asia Team at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada:
Iris Jin
Senior Program Manager

Maya Xiaoting Liu
Post Graduate Research Scholar

Henry Shum
Junior Research Scholar

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