On April 24, in a potentially meaningful harbinger of change, China signaled intentions to address the underlying enforcement problems that have so far undermined environmental progress. For the first time since its passage in 1989, the Chinese government amended the basic Environmental Protection Law to provide for more meaningful oversight and enforcement of industrial pollution. According to , these changes reflect the fact that China has “‘declared war’ against pollution and pledged to fight it with the same determination the country battled poverty.” Four drafts of the amendments were reviewed before passage, an unusually high number that suggests both the importance and controversial nature of the new terms, which go into effect on January 1, 2015. Some make clear that the government is finally responding to enforcement criticisms raised by legal scholars, environmental advocates, and average citizens.
The amended law includes twenty-three additional articles, merging well-worn elements with others that show hopeful signs of improvement. Familiar moves include amendments that impose stiffer penalties to deter environmental wrongdoing, such as promises that environmental violators will be “named and shamed” and held criminally responsible where appropriate. Harsher penalties suggest that the government is taking environmental harm more seriously, but threatening new penalties is of limited value if violations are not consistently prosecuted. Similar to , the amendments also exhort the public to adopt more environmentally friendly behaviors, such as sorting garbage to facilitate recycling and saving energy. Such non-enforceable exhortations may be a valuable tool for jumpstarting cultural change toward more sustainable norms, but they lack enforceable provisions.
Read more: http://www.law.com/sites/erinryan/2014/04/28/the-paper-tiger-gets-teeth/#ixzz38sYmoLbf