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Recommendations to improve environmental governance presented to Chinese Environment Ministry

25.06.2014 - (idw) Europäische Akademie Bozen - European Academy Bozen/Bolzano

Project on environmental impact assessment co-ordinated by the European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano now concluded The guidelines developed as part of the EU-China co-operation programme on environmental governance were presented to the heads of the Chinese Environment Ministry in Beijing. Working closely with the project partners (Chinese Academy for Environmental Planning, Yunnan Institute of Environmental Science, Shandong Academy of Environmental Science, Green Istria Association), research centres, public authorities and Chinese environmental associations, the legal experts at EURAC, the European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano have drawn up guidelines for increasing the participation of people in decisions affecting the environment.

Currently, Chinese citizens who want to have their say on the environmental impact assessment of public works have between 7 and 20 days to do so. This is too little time, according to the researchers at the Institute for Studies on Federalism and Regionalism at EURAC, who propose an extension of the period not least because of the fact that many Chinese live in remote areas that are not easily accessible. This is one of the recommendations that the researchers officially presented at a meeting held in Beijing with the directors of various departments of the Environment Ministry, a European Union delegation, international experts and representatives of international organisations. Among other matters highlighted by EURACs legal experts were the improvement of the system of public hearings and the involvement in the decision-making process of all citizens, companies and organisations with a potential interest, not just those local residents who are most affected, in particular for health reasons.
After 15 months of meetings with the population, interviews with public authorities, meetings with local environmental groups in the selected provinces (Shandong and Yunnan), EURACs work in China concluded by setting out certain key points to improve the transparency and effectiveness of the procedures that govern public participation in environmental impact assessments. We worked alongside non-governmental organisations and environmental groups to identify the main gaps in the public participation process. Our purpose is to foster dialogue between the public authorities and civil society, says project co-ordinator Mariachiara Alberton, expressing her satisfaction with the response of the local associations, who took a risk in making their positions known in person. There was a large amount of fieldwork involving partners, and we ourselves were regularly present on the ground: we are thus confident that the results of our work can be applied in practice. One positive signal is that the Chinese government has recently published a new framework law on environmental protection, which is in line with the recommendations made, she concludes.
In addition to the two pilot provinces, the project results were publicised in other parts of China via seminars, training courses and public events.
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