China Releases Top-level “Guideline on Building a Modern Environmental Governance System”

Amid the concerns on how “green” China can remain under the enormous economic pressure caused by the current COVID19 pandemic, on 3 March 2020, the General Office of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee and the State Council jointly released a “Guideline on Building a Modern Environmental Governance System” (hereafter referred to as the “Guideline”). Although it is not a direct response to the current concerns, but rather part of China’s long-term strategy of establishing an “Ecological Civilization”, this national policy issued by the top leadership from both the Party and government nevertheless reassured the world that China remains committed to its sustainable development and environmental protection agendas.

With the Guideline’s target of putting in place a sound environmental governance system by 2025, the top policymakers put ever greater emphasis on fundamentally transforming China’s environmental governance system at all levels. To this end, the Guideline specifies responsibilities of governments agencies, corporate entities, civil society and the public, and emphasizes joint efforts of all actors. Future efforts will be concentrated towards seven specific governance systems: (1) adjust the responsibility system for government officials at all levels, (2) consolidate the responsibility system for corporate entities, (3) motivate broader public support, (4) enhance environmental monitoring and supervision, (5) stimulate the environmental industry, (6) set up an environmental credit system, (7) improve laws, regulations and policy system.

Regarding follow up, the National Development Reform Commission will be responsible for overall coordination and policy support and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment will in the lead in pushing forward the implementation of the Guideline.