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China's War on Air Pollution: Can Existing Governance Structures Support New Ambitions?

  • Christine Wong (a1) and Valerie J. Karplus (a2)

Unprecedented and highly visible degraded air quality in China's urban centres has prompted a step change in central government control efforts in recent years. This “War on Air Pollution” has included a mixture of administrative controls, regulatory clampdowns, economic incentives and public education campaigns. A critical constraint on how policies are designed and implemented is the central government's capacity to access accurate cost information, and monitor, evaluate and enforce the policies at subordinate levels of government. We examine in detail the directives and arrangements that underpin China's “War on Air Pollution” at the provincial level, taking Hebei province as a case study. Located upwind of Beijing, Hebei's heavy industries have been a particular focus of the environmental policies. The current approach, which requires highly specific and costly local actions, yet allocates funds centrally, suffers from misaligned incentives and does not address longstanding weaknesses in local policy monitoring, evaluation and enforcement.

近年来, 中国中心城区的空气污染空前严重, 促使中央政府改变其防控措施。这场反空气污染战涵盖了行政控制、加强监管、经济激励以及公众教育动员等各类措施。设计并执行这些措施面临着一个重要约束, 也即中央政府是否有能力获取准确的减排成本信息, 推动下级政府落实政策, 并对政策落实情况进行监控和评估。我们以河北省为例, 详细分析了省级层面支持 “反空气污染战” 的政策安排。河北省的重工业企业位于北京市的上风方向, 因此是中国环保政策的一个重中之重。现行政策虽然需要地方层面采取成本高昂的具体行动, 但资金的分配仍然由中央控制, 因而导致激励机制失调, 难以解决地方层面长期存在的政策监控、评估和落实问题。

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