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Three Year Assessment of Environmental Open Information in China (Jan. 16, 2012) 

Beijing Press Release Conference for the 2011 Pollution Information Transparency Index (PITI)Third Annual Assessment of Environmental Transparency in 113 Chinese Cities

Beijing, China – January 16, 2012. The Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) jointly issued the third annual assessment of environmental transparency in 113 Chinese cities. The 2011 assessment results show that standards for environmental transparency within the 113 cities have overall been on the rise and that a system of environmental disclosure has been initially established, but is still in its infancy.

China’s State Council’s Government Open Information Regulations and Ministry of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Information Disclosure Measures went into effect on May 1, 2008. In 2009, IPE and NRDC worked together to develop a pollution information transparency index (PITI) and, for 3 consecutive years, issued assessments of the country’s 113 key environmental protection cities in order to evaluate the status of environmental information disclosure.
 
Most of the time, when new systems are launched, progress can be made when attention is given to the system, but over time the system ultimately becomes difficult to sustain. According to Ma Jun, director of IPE, “After three years of assessment, we can see that most cities are still expanding their scope of pollution information disclosure, the average score has increased from 31 to 40 points, and the number of cities that passed the minimum standard (60 points) increased from 4 to 19. We can conclude that the system of environmental open information has been initially established in China.”
 
Both IPE and NRDC believe that environmental open information is still in its initial stages, and this can be seen in the number of cities that still score below 20 points. It is also evident through the two key areas of daily supervision of pollution sources and public access to pollution records. For most cities, there exists a significant gap between the two areas, which shows that it is still difficult for the public to effectively obtain pollution information.
 
The 2011 PITI assessment shows that China's regional environmental open information gap continues to widen. Cities in the Pearl River Delta, Yangtze River Delta and other regions have accelerated in the advancement of open information standards, showing a break in the overall trend. However, in Shandong, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan and other large emitter provinces, there is still little progress and a number of cities even got worse.
 
The third major finding of this year’s report is that environmental open information has begun to put pressure on industry emitters. As of December 31, 2011, over 540 companies began to communicate their environmental monitoring records to environmental organizations. In 2011, 218 companies have faced their pollution problems and described how the company will rectify the problems. This progress shows that environmental open information in China has begun to push companies to realize their environmental responsibilities.
 
However, the two institutions believe that open information has a role to play in the reduction of emissions and that a registration system needs to be established. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) China Environmental Law Project Director, Bernadette Brennan said, "The emission registration system can mobilize companies, the public, the market, the government, and encourage all stakeholders to strengthen public supervision, encourage enterprises to reduce pollution, improve environmental performance, and promote the government in achieving comprehensive environmental management. Common international practice shows that this tool is powerful and effective."
 
This 2011 annual evaluation makes important progress. Environmental organization Green Hunan made use of the PITI index in carrying out an evaluation of the pollution information disclosure in prefecture-level cities throughout Hunan province. For the first time, environmental organizations outlined the pollution information disclosure status of all prefecture-level cities in a province. This nationwide elimination of the environmental open information blind spot and disclosure of environmental information to promote public oversight has strong referential significance.
 
Green Hunan Director of Administration, Tang He, said: “Through the evaluation of Hunan Province’s fourteen prefecture-level cities, the overall environmental open information disclosure is not optimistic. City environmental protection departments are to gradually establish an environmental information disclosure system and will try to interact with local non-governmental environmental forces to jointly promote the environmental open information work in Hunan.”
 
Some cities were invited to the PITI assessment in order to strengthen environmental open information and to share their experiences.
 
Ningbo Environmental Protection Bureau Director, Xie Xiaocheng says, "Environmental information illuminated under the sun signifies real implementation and ensures the public's rights to information, participation and supervision. It is also useful for companies, the public and environmental protection departments."
 
Hunan NPC Committee on Environmental and Natural Resources Protection Deputy Director Liu Shuai says, "Environmental open information is beneficial to both the country and its citizens. It is a necessary requirement to protect the environmental rights of citizens."
 
Through three years of evaluation, IPE and NRDC have found a number of good cases and will persist in the future to carry out PITI assessment, continue to interact with environmental protection departments, strive to practice good environmental information disclosure, promote an introduction to more areas, and further facilitate the expansion of environmental open information.
 
 
For more information, please contact:
 
Wang Jingjing, IPE, Vice-Director
Office: 010-67189470-8006 
Mobile: 13811147158
Email: wangjing162003@gmail.com
 
Li Yang, NRDC, China Program Communications Director
Office: 010-58794079, extension 7915
Mobile: 13581603565
Email: yangli@nrdc.org
 
Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs
The Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) is a registered non-profit organization based in Beijing. Since its establishment in May 2006, IPE has developed two pollution databases, the China Water Pollution Map and the China Air Pollution Map (www.ipe.org.cn), to monitor corporate environmental performance and to facilitate public participation in environmental governance.
 
Natural Resources Defense Council
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is a non-profit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, NRDC lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and environment. NRDC has offices in New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Montana, and Beijing.
 
For more information, please visit NRDC’s websites: www.nrdc.org and www.nrdc.cn

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