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Environmental Open Information: Between Advance & Retreat (Dec. 2010) 

Media contacts:
Ms. WANG Jingjing
Deputy Director, Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs
Office:  (010) 6718-9470 x8006   Cell:  138 1114 7158
Email:  wangjing162003@gmail.com

Ms. LI Yang
China Program Communications Director, Natural Resources Defense Council
Cell:  138 1114 7158                  Email:  yangli@nrdc.org


The Pollution Information Transparency Index (PITI) 2009-2010
Assessment of Environmental Transparency in 113 Chinese Cities

 

Beijing, China – On December 28, 2010, the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released the results of the second annual Pollution Information Transparency Index (PITI), an assessment and ranking of environmental information disclosure in 113 Chinese cities. The assessment results showed that China’s pollution information disclosure has improved overall; however, progress was uneven.  Some cities again received low scores, and a number of cities regressed, receiving lower scores than in 2008.

This year’s PITI assessment showed that many cities still perform poorly on the disclosure of information regarding enterprise violations and accidents in particular.  It is also still generally not possible to obtain enterprise-level emissions data in China. At the same time, the PITI evaluation discovered many innovations and good practices in China’s environmental information disclosure. For example, some cities have begun to have a greater degree of interaction with the public and environmental groups regarding environmental information disclosure. These good practices contribute will contribute to the advancement of environmental information disclosure in China.

On May 1, 2008, the China’s Regulations on Open Government Information and Measures on Open Environmental Information went into effect. IPE and NRDC jointly developed the Pollution Information Transparency Index in 2008 to evaluate the implementation of these regulations.  The first PITI evaluation showed that the “ice had been broken” on China’s environmental information disclosure, but that the state of disclosure was still in its early stages.  Only four cities received a PITI score above 60 points (out of 100). 1

The average score among all 113 cities assessed in this year’s PITI evaluation was 36 points, 5 points higher than the 2008 average. Eleven cities scored over 60 points, and Ningbo, the highest scoring city, exceeded 80 points.  Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Taizhou also performed well in the second PITI assessment.


Polluted water suffering from eutrophication    © IPE//MaJun 

Ma Jun, director of IPE, said: “This report gives us a unique opportunity to compare the performance of cities on environmental information disclosure over time.  We can see which cities have improved, and identify those that have not improved or have even backtracked. At the same time, we have been able to conduct a variety of other comparisons among cities and within provinces.  For example, we have highlighted the performance of provincial capitals and cities directly under central government jurisdiction because they typically receive more resources and would be expected to perform better on the PITI evaluation.  This report highlights good practices and weak performers to promote the sharing of best practice models.”

According to the results of this year’s assessment, Jiaxing, Foshan, Zhongshan, and a number of other cities had relatively large improvements in information disclosure.  Taiyuan, Hangzhou, Chifeng, and a number of other cities backtracked.  Our analysis shows that Tianjin, Shijiazhuang, Hohhot, Guiyang, Zhuhai, and a number of other cities underperform compared to similarly situated cities.  These cities need to carefully consider the good practices seen in other cities.

Government representatives from a number of cities participated in the release of the PITI assessment results, and shared their experience in improving environmental information disclosure. Mr. CHEN Shengliang, a director in the Chongqing Environmental Protection Bureau, stated that “the localities must implement environmental information transparency because it is national law. At the environmental protection department of Chongqing, we do our best to coordinate with other departments in promoting environmental open information.”

Mr. XIE Xiaocheng, director of the Ningbo Environmental Promotion and Information Center in Zhejiang Province, said: “Through the establishment of an environmental open information mechanism, Ningbo’s Environmental Protection Bureau created innovative methods for environmental information disclosure, and protected the public’s environmental right to know, right to engage, and right to monitor. This is a ray of sunshine for environmental protection bureau operations.”

Mr. TANG Yuanpeng, director of the Huangshi Environmental Protection Bureau Center for Open Information in Hubei Province, said that “this May we had the opportunity to participate in the [IPE- and NRDC-sponsored] Workshop on Pollution Source Monitoring Data Disclosure in Wendeng, Shandong Province. Representatives from environmental protection bureaus across the country met to discuss their experience with environmental information disclosure. I was very inspired, especially by the topic that environmental open information is a way to increase public right to know, and reconcile differences between the public, enterprises, and the government. This gave us much impetus to improve, so after we returned to Huangshi we renovated our existing environmental protection website to strengthen information disclosure and improve user friendliness. It is our deepest wish that through open information we can create a service-oriented government and improve the government’s image.”

Alex Wang, director of the Environmental Law Project at NRDC, had the following to say about the milestones in 2009 and 2010: “The next step is to improve enterprise-level environmental information disclosure. Current environmental regulations only require disclosure of such pollution data for a limited number of black-listed companies, and in practice it has been difficult to get even these companies to disclose the amount of pollution they release into the environment. However, the international best practice is to disclose facility-level pollution data through a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR), which can help to reduce pollution by motivating companies, enhancing public monitoring and supervision, and strengthening the government’s ability to prioritize and target enforcement efforts. Given China’s recent advancements in environmental information disclosure, a PRTR for China is the obvious next step.”

Experts and academics also attended the press conference and provided comments. Professor ZHU Xiao from China Renmin University Law School said: “The results from the PITI assessment, especially the sections on the ‘All-Star’ cities, once again give us the hope and conviction that improving environmental information disclosure of the Chinese government is possible. The key is to change the way we think about environmental open information.  Also, we should be clear in the fact that environmental open information is not an isolated pursuit. It is intimately related to environmental management, environmental law, and environmental litigation.  Through all these interactions it is possible to reach our ultimate goal of improving China’s environment.”

The key findings from the 2009-2010 PITI report are:

• The overall level of environmental information disclosure continues to improve

According to the assessment, the average score of the 113 cities increased to 36 points, 5 points higher than in 2008. Eighty-two cities, or 73 percent of all the cities, received a higher score than in the prior year’s PITI evaluation. The number of cities receiving a “passing” grade of 60 points or higher increased from four in the first PITI evaluation to eleven in 2009-2010. Ningbo was once again the highest scoring city and the only city to exceed 80 points. The other ten cities above 60 points are: Shenzhen, Foshan, Shanghai, Taizhou, Zhongshan, Changzhou, Quanzhou, Fuzhou, Nantong, and Suzhou.

• Progress on environmental information disclosure is uneven, and the disparity among regions and cities has widened.

Sixty-five cities received a noticeably higher score than in 2008.  2 Fifteen cities saw their scores decrease significantly. This year’s PITI report identifies the ten most-improved cities and the ten cities that have lost the most ground. Provinces on China’s eastern and southern coasts are overall higher performers, with Shanghai, Fujian, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Guangdong scoring near the top. Meanwhile, we observed some backtracking in the central and western regions of China, with Jilin, Jiangxi, Inner Mongolia, Guizhou, and Gansu scoring near the bottom.

We found large disparities among many cities within the same province. In nine provinces, the difference between the top- and bottom-scoring cities was more than 100 percent. Guangdong had the largest intra-province gap of 55.7 points.

• Disclosure of enterprise-level emissions data remains inadequate.

This year, many facilities in violation of emissions and clean production standards failed to publicly disclose emissions data as required by law.  Local environmental protection bureaus often failed to impose any fines or take other actions in response as required by law.

Changzhou, Tianjin Economic-Technological Development Area (a state-sponsored industrial park in Tianjin), and Xuzhou Tongshan provided rare cases of good enterprise-level emissions data disclosure practices. In October 2010, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection began to disclose detailed environmental inspection reports related to listed company refinancing that included, among other things, three years of facility-level emissions data.  This practice should serve as a valuable model for China.

• Progress in some regions has not been sustained.

Prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Beijing and neighboring Shanxi and Hebei Provinces intensified efforts to improve the environment, and disclosed lists of polluting enterprises. However, since the Olympics, these good practices have been discontinued, causing scores to decrease in a number of these cities. The 2009 National Games in Jinan, 2010 Shanghai World Expo, and Guangzhou Asian Games all prompted the host cities and neighboring regions to improve environmental information disclosure. The question of how to sustain the environmental disclosure improvements related to such major international events remains a difficult one.

• Some regions are working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on environmental information disclosure.

During the PITI assessment, some cities directly communicated with environmental NGOs, including IPE and NRDC, about environmental information disclosure. Jiaxing, Beijing, Zhongshan, Yantai, Baoding, and Yinchuan were particularly active. At a May 2010 workshop in Weihai City, Shandong Province, EPB officials, NGOs, and media discussed how to advance environmental information disclosure. At a November 2010 Forum on Public Participation in Jiaixing City, Zhejiang Province, EPB officials engaged in an in-depth exchange on environmental information disclosure with NGOs, media, and community representatives. In 2010, Chongqing and Tianjin TEDA Development Zone initiated NGO meetings that included discussion of environmental information disclosure. These talks have played an important role in pushing forward regional environmental information disclosure.

• The increase in the PITI “All-Star” team score confirms the feasibility of improving information disclosure in China.

As with the 2008 PITI evaluation, we combined the top-scoring city in this year’s PITI ranking in each of the eight evaluation metrics to create an “All-Star” team of Chinese environmental information disclosure.  The total score for the 2009-2010 All-Star team increased to 95.3 points, up 5.8 points from 2008.  The outstanding performance of the 2009-2010 PITI All-Star team demonstrates once again that, under China’s current economic and social circumstances, disclosure of pollution information is not only possible, but that a high level of performance on information disclosure is quite feasible.


 We are trying to to preserve the bueatiful nature from pollutions in China     © IPE//MaJun 

 
About the Organizations

Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE)

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 and Air Pollution Maps (www.ipe.org.cn), to monitor corporate environmental performance and facilitate public participation in environmental governance.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

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 City, Beijing, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

For more Information, please visit NRDC’s website at www.nrdc.org or www. nrdc.cn.

1 60 points on the PITI scale represent information disclosure requirements under Chinese law.  A PITI score of 60 or more is therefore considered a “passing” grade under the PITI evaluation system
2 These cities had an increase of more than three points on the PITI evaluation.


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