A group of 18 multinational and domestic corporations were named and shamed by Greenpeace for violating China’s emissions disclosure regulations within 18 months of the rules being introduced.
According to the environmental organization, the companies, which include 2008 Fortune Global 500 and Fortune China 100 giants such as Shell and Sinopec, did not comply with the Measures on Environmental Disclosure. These rules, set out by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, require companies to release pollution data within 30 days of being reported by local environmental bureaus as breaking pollution standards.
Greenpeace contends that environmental information disclosure has been one of the most effective and low-cost policy tools that helped reduce industrial pollution in countries such as the US and Japan.
“Evidence shows that a strong information disclosure system helped reduce pollution in the United States by 61% in 20 years,” Greenpeaces’s Ma Tianjie said. He believes it is crucial for China to similarly enforce rules requiring companies to publish pollution data that is easily accessible to the public.
The organization described as “shocking” the fact that “leaders in their respective industries did not even manage to obey the most basic environmental regulation in China… The public has a right to know about what these corporations are discharging in the rivers and lakes around their communities and what risks they face.”
In cases concerning the disclosure or non-disclosure of pollutants, most of the time the evidence is clear, whether the offender is a large multinational or a locally-owned factory. Several recent incidents have highlighted the growing need for tighter restrictions on blacklisted regions where local industrial emissions are poisoning local residents.
Just in last few weeks, state media reported that the government of Jiyuan, China’s biggest lead smelting region in Henan province, is planning to relocate 15,000 people who live in close proximity to smelters after nearly 1,000 of 2,743 children under 14 were found to have excess levels of lead in their blood. There have been other lead poisoning scandals in Shaanxi, Hunan and Yunnan.
Although legal action has been taken against polluters – courts in Guizhou and Jiangsu accepted two cases in July from the All-China Environmental Federation (ACEF), an NGO affiliated with the Ministry of Environmental Protection, against the local government land bureau in Qingzhen city, and a port container company in Wuxi, respectively – it is a rarity. Most victims of pollution are unable to seek redress.
Greenpeace is heavily critical of local governments for their complicity in pollution incidents – as was the case in Guizhou – claiming that corporate disobedience is “encouraged by local authorities’ weak enforcement” of disclosure regulations.