Opening up the Floor: Environmental Information Disclosure Trends in China
Since the early 1980s, China has adopted many regulations to curb water and air pollution by state-owned enterprises and multinational corporations, but these regulations often are not enforced due to institutional weaknesses. In 1998, Chinese decision-makers decided to push public disclosure of environmental information as a strategy to improve environmental governance in China, but this was strongly resisted by local governments and industries. In response to this resistance, SEPA initiated collaboration with the World Bank to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of this approach in the context of pilot projects in two municipalities in Jiangsu Province. In light of measurable improvements in pollution control (e.g., the compliance rate in the city of Zhengjiang changed from 31% in 1999 to 61% in 2000, and to 63% in 2001) and in environmental management capacity in the two municipalities, SEPA and the World Bank initiated a broader province-wide pilot program in 2002, which was subsequently expanded to seven provinces in 2005. Currently, SEPA is working on a policy document for nationwide adoption of the public disclosure approach, which is expected to be included in the forthcoming State Council's Decision on Environmental Protection, as well as in the new version of the Law on Water Pollution Control and Prevention. The speakers will discuss this and other World Bank information disclosure programs that have worked to increase transparency of governments and industries and to strengthen public participation.