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Open Access Vertical Environmental Management: A Panacea to the Environmental Enforcement Gap in China?

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Vertical Environmental Management: A Panacea to the Environmental Enforcement Gap in China?

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After being proposed in 2015, environmental vertical management (VM) reform was hailed as being able to bridge the environmental law enforcement gap, because it helps in insulating environmental protection agencies from intervention by local governments, thus functioning to end local protectionism brought about by the traditional ‘dual leadership’ model. This article identifies how the ongoing reform process changes the institutional structure of environmental management, explains the reasons for initiating such a reform and analyses whether VM can be as effective as intended. It is concluded that promotion of an environmental VM reform reflects the vicissitudes of central government-local government relations in the environmental era. As a method to strengthen central oversight on local environmental performance, VM is far from the sole or the most cost-effective method to realize this goal. The environmental VM reform plan combines both centralization and decentralization approaches. The design of ‘soft’ (extension of reform below provincial level) and fragmented (selected monitoring and inspection) centralization may decrease the anticipated effectiveness of VM reform by moving local malfeasance from municipal and county levels to the provincial level (‘provincial protectionism’) and thus continuing to harm the integrity of environmental management. As a partial solution, VM reform needs to be supplemented with incentive and accountability mechanisms, and by more effective and professional enforcement activities at local levels.

Affiliations: 1: Lecturer, Law School of China University of Political Science and Law mayun@cupl.edu.cn

10.1163/24686042-12340004
/content/journals/10.1163/24686042-12340004
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After being proposed in 2015, environmental vertical management (VM) reform was hailed as being able to bridge the environmental law enforcement gap, because it helps in insulating environmental protection agencies from intervention by local governments, thus functioning to end local protectionism brought about by the traditional ‘dual leadership’ model. This article identifies how the ongoing reform process changes the institutional structure of environmental management, explains the reasons for initiating such a reform and analyses whether VM can be as effective as intended. It is concluded that promotion of an environmental VM reform reflects the vicissitudes of central government-local government relations in the environmental era. As a method to strengthen central oversight on local environmental performance, VM is far from the sole or the most cost-effective method to realize this goal. The environmental VM reform plan combines both centralization and decentralization approaches. The design of ‘soft’ (extension of reform below provincial level) and fragmented (selected monitoring and inspection) centralization may decrease the anticipated effectiveness of VM reform by moving local malfeasance from municipal and county levels to the provincial level (‘provincial protectionism’) and thus continuing to harm the integrity of environmental management. As a partial solution, VM reform needs to be supplemented with incentive and accountability mechanisms, and by more effective and professional enforcement activities at local levels.

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/content/journals/10.1163/24686042-12340004
2017-06-23
2018-10-16

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