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Environmental and Energy Law and Policy in China

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General Enrollment Course
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Course Description

This course will examine how China's regulatory and legal frameworks for environmental and energy laws are structured and implemented. China continues to struggle with poor air and water quality, and it is the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter. To address these issues, environmental laws that China has enacted over the past thirty years are being strengthened, and new regulations and standards are being issued. Climate change and environmental issues occupy central positions in the recent 12th Five-Year Plan, and China’s policies to promote renewable energy and other green technologies have led to environmental improvements. Yet the challenge of addressing China’s pollution problems is complicated by rapid economic development (and the corresponding rapid rate of increase in pollution), a political system that continues to give incentives for growth over environmental protection, and a rudimentary environmental monitoring and enforcement system.
We will study the effectiveness of China’s political, legal and social structures in implementing environmental and energy laws in a comparative fashion. The process of developing energy and environmental laws is different in China than in Western democratic republics in which state, provincial or local governments have substantial policy development roles.  China is a communist one-party state with a “top-down” structure featuring more centralized power in the national government than in the United States or Europe. The national government carries out centralized economic planning and formulation of regulations that guide implementation of programs and initiatives in individual provinces. We will study these programs (including efforts to enforce environmental laws) and assess their relative efficacy in addressing China’s formidable environmental problems.