Strengthen Environmental Laws and Governance

August 19, 2015
A man protects himself against Beijing's air pollution by wearing a mask as he rides to work through the smog.
Jianghui Zhang/iStock

When dirty industries contaminate rivers or pump dangerous pollution into the air, tough environmental laws can help rein them in and hold them accountable. In recent years, China has committed to strengthening its laws and allowing public participation in environmental regulations. Now the challenge becomes enforcing these safeguards and improving transparency.

Building on our extensive knowledge of U.S. environmental laws, NRDC's legal experts provide technical and policy analyses when China updates its major safeguards. We advocate for improvements to the country's Air Pollution Law and Environmental Protection Law. We also submit comments on translating these laws into on-the-ground rules and regulations.

The public has a critical role to play in helping enforce environmental protections. When people have access to information about polluters, they can urge those industries to comply or spur government agencies to act. NRDC joined with Ma Jun, China’s leading environmental activist, to produce an annual Pollution Information Transparency Index that ranks more than 120 Chinese cities based on transparency.

We support a comprehensive disclosure system, including online monitoring of emissions data, the publication of government-enforcement rules, and the release of a list of pollutants that are identified in a project's environmental assessment.

In the United States, when polluters refuse to follow the law, organizations like NRDC can sue on behalf of the public. This is now becoming possible in China, thanks to amendments to the Environmental Protection Law, so we are helping train legal professionals in environmental litigation and advocacy, as well as other aspects of public-interest cases. These practices will help increase the number of enforcement actions against polluters.