Recurrent issues in environmental governance
Introduction From one perspective, the environmental challenges facing the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are unique. No other country has seriously grappled with environmental protection in the face of such rapid economic growth in such a short period of time. The PRC geography, climate, education and political system are, of course, unique as well. As a result, one must be cautious in drawing overbroad conclusions from the experience of environmental protection in other countries. A policy instrument that works well in Europe or the United States may be a poor fit in the PRC. The same may be true for particular methods of public participation or enforcement strategies. From another perspective, however, while the PRC situation is undeniably unique, it shares important, indeed fundamental, similarities with the environmental protection challenges faced by other countries. If one reads the sectoral assessments by the international experts in this volume, it quickly becomes apparent that the sectoral reports and analyses share a number of common themes that cut across air pollution, water pollution and nature conservation. This chapter provides a synthesis of the cross-cutting themes, highlighting four of the most important for further analysis. Because these common themes are fundamental to effective environmental governance, they inevitably overlap with one another. Community groups’ monitoring of pollution is discussed under the topic of individual participation. But it could equally have been addressed as an aspect of enforcement, citizen participation or information collection. This chapter is intended to provide core lessons on how to structure an effective regulatory system for environmental protection in a complex jurisdiction, drawing from experiences in the United States, the European Union and international organizations.