Greenpeace: Environment Protection Ministry Necessary but Not Sufficient

Press release - 2008-03-11
Greenpeace welcomes the proposal by China’s State Council today to promote the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) to cabinet ministerial level, and continues to call for more reforms to empower the country’s citizens to be more environmentally active and help to monitor polluters.

China's environment has worsened with rapid economic growth.

"This is a long-awaited plan. The new Environment Ministry will have a say in strategic decisions made at the cabinet level. We hope the promotion will also give the new ministry 'real teeth' to enforce China's environmental regulations and to counter the vested interests of growth-at-all-cost." says Greenpeace Campaign Director Lo Sze Ping.

"At the same time," Lo adds, "China needs to empower, encourage and mobilize its people to become more environmentally active and help to monitor polluters and environment law enforcement."

China has been struggling to enforce its environmental policy and regulations. Environmental issues often cut across the regulatory domain of many ministries, making coordination difficult. At the local level, officials see economic growth as steps towards promotion. Environmental protection is given low priority: factories are often built without going through required environmental assessment and pollution remains unchecked as law enforcers' pay checks come from the local government.

"To improve China's environmental governance, China needs more than just a new Environment Protection Ministry. The proposed Environment Protection Ministry will also need to expand its regulatory domain, to initiate direct management of local environment agencies, and to include environmental criteria in the performance evaluation system of local officials," Lo says.

"The establishment of the Environment Ministry will signal a turning point at which environmental issues are moving from the margin to the center of governance in China. It is high time that China reverse the short-sighted economic growth model, which up till now has been at the expense of the environment," Lo adds.

Other contacts:

Sarah Liang, Media Officer, Greenpeace China, +86- 13911152514, +86-10-65546931 ext 123