A Study of China’s Air Pollution Prevention and Control Policy Framework from a Policy Instrument Perspective
2020, 11 (2):
Environmental pollution caused by rapid economic development like that seen in China over the past twenty years poses various threats to human health. People have started to place much more of an emphasis on environmental security, working to find a balance between sustainability and economic growth. In recent years, air pollution has emerged as a highly discussed topic of social and environmental relevance in China, due in part to persistent smog that affects everyday life and causes serious harm to human health. Although air pollution is normally associated with human activity, is can be caused by natural processes such as eruptions and forest fires, but is always characterized by the release of certain substances into the atmosphere which, when present in certain concentrations or for given durations, can harm human health, daily life, productivity, and other aspects. In humans, it mainly affects the respiratory system, notably the lungs, as well as the immune system. A series of studies both in China and overseas have shown, in certain cases, even low concentrations of air pollution can pose a great threat to human health. In this study, we conducted an analysis of air quality policies, focusing on the 2018 revision of the People’s Republic of China’s Law on the Prevention and Control of Air Pollution (LPCAP). We utilized the content analysis method and Strauss and Corbin’s grounded theory to construct a policy framework, demarcate analysis units, code and classify policy texts, determine descriptive statistics, and analyze dimensional interactions. We used two dimensions (basic policy instruments classified as demand-, supply-, and environment-side; and air carrying capacity) to quantify and analyze the LPCAP, which enabled us to analyze the deficiencies and conflicts within policy instruments. The results show a higher utilization frequency of environment-side policy instruments, particularly regulation management and strategic measures. This reflects efforts by the government to create a favorable environment for improving air quality. Additionally, supply-side policy instruments are used far less frequently than environment-side policy instruments. Air quality legal policies and pollution control measures mainly consist of environment-side policy instruments; ecological thinking and air quality policies that are based mainly on supply-side and environment-side policy instruments; and social coordination policies that mainly use environment-side policy instruments. Based on the results of this study, we recommend an increase in the number of supply- and demand-side policy instruments, particularly the latter which includes promoting ecological thinking amongst citizens, to optimize and improve air pollution prevention and control policies.
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