Towards a Low-Carbon Economy
New Horizons in Environmental Economics series
Chapter 2: Effective Environmental Protection in the Context of Government Decentralization
1 1. INTRODUCTION Confronted with the rising costs and health risks of environmental degradation associated with rapid economic growth, the central governments in Asian countries have gradually recognized that the conventional path of encouraging economic growth at the expense of the environment cannot be sustained. It has to be changed. They are convinced of the need to clean up their countries’ development act. Accordingly, they set environmental goals and environmental performance requirements. Environmental ministries or equivalent agencies are empowered to take the responsibility. But they are often ill-equipped with their tasks of enforcing existing regulations and designing, implementing, monitoring, inspecting and enforcing new effective environmental policies. The National Environmental Protection Agency of China was for years seen as a powerless entity. While the Chinese President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao gave it new lease of life and elevated it from a low vice-minister rank, then to full ministerial status (named as the State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA)) and currently to the Ministry of Environmental Protection of China (MEP) under the State Council (China’s Cabinet), the MEP still does not have the authority to suspend proposed projects violating environmental laws and regulations or to remove officials who should be held accountable for this non-compliance. It also lacks the authority to manage local environmental bureaus (Zhang, 2007a). Should the MEP decide to impose a penalty on violators of environmental impact assessment (EIA) laws and regulations, as indicated in Table 2.1, the maximum fine at its disposal is just Yuan 200...
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