|Environmental Change and International Law: New Challenges and Dimensions (UNU, 1992, 493 pages)|
|Issues in international environmental law|
|7. The legislation and implementation of international environmental law and the third world: the example of China|
China is a third-world country, a vast territory with a large population. In the process of economic growth, pollution has posed a major threat to the human environment. We need more consensual arrangements and a more specialized legal domain on the planning of environmental behaviour to bring about a positive environmental culture. That is why we have insisted that maintaining and improving the human environment has a role in humanity's well-being and economic development, not to mention the aspirations of the world's people. As a long-standing practice, the Chinese government has regarded environmental protection and improvement as a national policy and one of the necessary ingredients in the formulation and implementation of a national economic plan. The Constitution of the People's Republic of China states that "the state must protect and improve the environment in which people live. It must prevent and control pollution and other public hazards."1
Apart from the Constitution, dozens of laws and regulations to protect the environment have been enacted. Such legislation includes, for example, the Environmental Protection Law of the PRC (for trial implementation) (1979),2 the law of the PRC on the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution (1984),3 the law of the PRC on the Prevention and Control of Atmospheric Pollution (1987),4 and the Marine Environment Protection Law of the PRC (1982).5 The important laws and regulations on the preservation of natural resources and the environment are: the Forestry Law (1984),6 the Grassland Law (1985),7 the Fisheries Law (1986),8 and the Water Law (1988).9 The Regulation on Environmental Protection of Construction Projects (1986),10 the Interim Regulation on the Control of Environment of the Economic Open Area (1986),11 and the Interim Procedure on the Collection of Drainage Dues (1982)12 are the major laws concerning environmental management. In addition, China has also promulgated more than 100 normative environmental standards, including an environment quality standard,13 a pollutant-discharge standard,14 and an environmental base standard.15 All these make up the framework of Chinese environmental law.
Knowing the seriousness of the deterioration of the human environment and awaking to planetary obligations, China persistently holds a positive attitude about the implementation of international environment protection. As a member of the Governing Council of UNEP, China has attended Council meetings every year since 1973 in order to consult with other countries about global environmental protection. China has also been a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) since the Twelfth Council session held in Sweden in 1982. In addition, China joined the World Wildlife Fund, signed the agreements on the Protection of Wildlife Resources16 and the Establishment of a Research Centre for Panda Protection.17 Furthermore, China has acceded to 10 international conventions and treaties relating to environment protection, such as the Antarctic Treaty,18 the provisions of the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damages,19 the Treaty on the Prohibition of the Emplacement of Nuclear Weapons and Other Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Seabed and the Ocean Floor,20 and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.21
In recent years, cooperation by China, international organizations, and foreign governments has been successful in its efforts to protect the Chinese environment. China has not only established sound cooperative relations with UNDP, FAO, Unesco, and WHO, but it has also held a series of meaningful symposia.
Sino-American environmental protection is an example of cooperation with foreign governments. To illustrate, in 1984, the two countries signed a protocol on Scientific and Technological Cooperation.22 In 1981, a co-sponsored symposium on environmental science was held in Beijing, at which research reports on land use, comprehensive planning of the regional environment, atmospheric environmental quality, as well as underground water were presented by both parties. The Institute of Environmental Hygienic Engineering of the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medical Science, in cooperation with the Institute of Health Impact of the American Environmental Protection Agency, made a pathogenic research of lung cancer in Yunnan Province of China; the initial results have already been attained. Meanwhile, the State Environmental Protection Bureau of China established a long-term cooperation with the American Center for East-West Cultural Exchange, and the two parties decided to conduct a joint research project focused on environmental management, environmental impact evaluation, human ecology, and agricultural ecology, etc. Of course, exchanges with other foreign countries and non-governmental organizations are also quite frequent. For instance, China attended a series of international conferences on environmental protection, which included the World Environmental Tribunal Conference of 1984 held in San Francisco, the Energy Evironment Conference of 1984, and the Asian-Pacific Conference on Urban Environmental Pollution.
According to incomplete statistics, China, in recent years, has sent hundreds of experts, scholars, and students to dozens of countries for advanced research and additional study. Meanwhile, more than 380 foreign environmental experts have visited China. Furthermore, Chinese research institutes have initiated more than 10 projects to research, monitor, investigate, train, and evaluate regarding the adequacy of environmental protection, in cooperation with various international organizations and foreign governments. It should be mentioned that Vice-Premier Li Peng and Qu Ge-ping, the head of the State Environmental Protection Bureau, were awarded gold medals and certificates of merit issued by UNEP because Chinese environmental policy and its achievements were recognized and admired by the international community. Both Chinese Environment News and the San-Bei Shelter Forest Office were listed in the UNEP "Global 500" honour roll of 1986.23
In short, despite problems mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, China's achievements in environmental protection, especially in the legislation and implementation of international environmental law, not only demonstrates China's positive function in international environmental endeavours, but also shows other third-world nations that they too can contribute to the drafting and implementation of international environmental legislation.