Public Participation in China's Energy Governance: The Non-Case of Chongqing Green Volunteers v. Yangzonghai Power Company
28 Pages Posted: 25 Mar 2012 Last revised: 26 Mar 2012
Date Written: March 24, 2012
This case study examines the political, legal, and energy issues raised when some of China's leading environmental lawyers and public advocates filed a complaint aimed at coal plant emissions within a special environmental court in China and with the hope that the court would grant the plaintiff public interest standing. At its simplest, the plaintiff's complaint merely requested the court to ensure the enforcement of existing law and to increase transparency surrounding the power plant's emissions and pollution controls. At its most ambitious, the plaintiff's case tests the robustness of China's promotion of public participation and its reliance on China's weak judiciary to be effective. Additionally, the case study highlights the existence of dual enforcement systems unique to China, and how these dueling systems impact the ability of the public to participate in energy and environmental governance issues. An examination of China's sulfur dioxide (SO2) regulation evinces that enforcement of laws and policies has less to do with written law, and more to do with incentivizing local executive governments to meet specific targets. While the system of executive driven enforcement proved effective at curbing SO2 emissions in China, at least to some extent, it can also marginalize the role of existing law, the judiciary, and the ability of the public to effectively engage in energy and environmental issues. The development of public interest standing within China's environmental courts is also discussed.
Keywords: China energy governance, China public participation, China environmental courts, public interest standing, China energy security public participation
JEL Classification: K13, K23, K33, K32, K42, L94, O53, Q38, Q48
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