From targets to inspections: the issue of fairness in China’s environmental policy implementation

Coraline Goron, Genia Kostka

Environmental Politics. Taylor & Francis Online Sep 2020 [Link]


Using document analysis and fieldwork to analyse the issue of fairness in the implementation of China’s environmental and climate policy goals, we examine two top-down mechanisms put in place to steer implementation: binding environmental targets that have been allocated on different administrative levels since the 11th Five-Year Plan in 2011; and central environmental inspections, which have been rolled out across the country since 2016. The evidence shows that the way in which both mechanisms have assigned responsibilities among localities is, by and large, inequitable. This inequity stems from not only insufficient differentiation based on economic and capacity criteria but also a discretionary approach to enforcement. These structural implementation defects affect the legitimacy of environmental planning and incentivise disgruntled local officials to either resort to drastic, costly and unfair measures to satisfy upper-level demands or to fake performance, thus undermining the sustainability of environmental protection and transition efforts.

This project receives funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement No 722826.