China (Yunnan Province)
Environmental Democracy Index Score
China scored well on the Transparency pillar and fair on the Participation and Justice pillars. China’s Regulations on Open Government Information (ROGI) provide citizens with the ability to request and receive environmental information from administrative agencies and state-owned enterprises. The authorities are also required to collect and publish environmental information, although exactly what this includes is largely at the authorities’ discretion. China scored fair on public participation because while there are various laws that require public participation, they do not establish clear procedural safeguards. For instance, although the public has to be given an opportunity to participate before a final decision is made, it is unclear when this is to occur; it could be done at either a scoping stage or once an environmental impact assessment has been produced. With regard to the Justice pillar, the public does have the legal right to seek review for a variety of reasons, such as refusal to grant a request for information or a failure to comply with administrative procedure. However, there are few legal mechanisms guaranteeing the impartiality and independence of judicial decisions. Remedies do not have to be adequate and effective, and there are very few measures to reduce barriers to justice. China’s recent legal commitments to greater environmental transparency could be supported by expanding procedural safeguards for public participation and ensuring the public can access justice when laws are broken or the environment is harmed.
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In May 2008, the Regulations on Government Disclosure of Information for China
officially took effect covering all branches of government. The environmental aspects
are enforced by the Ministry of Environmental Protection through its Measures on Open
Environmental Information. These developments created new opportunities to address
access rights and sustainable development challenges in the area.
The Yunnan TAI Coalition was established in Jan 2008. The coalition and advisory panel
were convened at the TAI Training Workshop in Jan 13-15, 2008 hosted by other TAI
partners from Asia. The coalition is led by World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) office
in Yunnan. ICRAF has developed strong partnerships with local research institutes,
NGOs, and government agencies.
The TAI assessment research and coalition building efforts were a first step towards
engaging civil society organizations and government agencies to promote
transparency, participation, and accountability. The assessment led to an expansion of coalition’s work in the Guizhou province of China.
The TAI assessment in Yunnan, funded by the Swedish Environmental Secretariat for
Asia (SENSA), and was completed in 2009 by four partners, Eco-Watch, Yunnan
Academy of Social Science (YASS), Yunnan Institute of Environmental Science
(YIES), and Yunnan Environmental Science Society (YESS). As part of their
research, Yunnan coalition members met with the Provincial Water Bureau, Yunnan
Provincial Environment Protection Bureau, Agricultural Bureau, Yunnan Provincial
Forestry Department, Vegetative Protection Station, Air Quality Monitoring Station,
local agricultural stations, environmental protection stations and other related
sectors to acquire more information. Interviewees included experts, villagers, and
consumers as well as local authority staff. The analysis showed that the
government’s performance is best in information access, but there are important
challenges to improving environmental governance remaining.