‘Seeking truth from facts: the Challenge of Environmental Indicator Development in China’

My colleagues and I recently wrote a paper distilling the challenges of environmental indicator development in China, based on the report we released last November, “Towards a China Environmental Performance Index.”

Here are some highlights of the article:

  • China’s environmental policymaking has been long plagued by information gaps, asymmetries, and limited public access, among other challenges. While the 12th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development pledges the implementation of “well-equipped statistical and monitoring systems” and “index evaluation systems” to measure progress on a range of energy and environmental targets, developing such robust statistical monitoring systems is challenging.
  • The challenge of developing composite indices based on province-level environmental data in China can be grouped into three types: measurement gaps that prevent a comprehensive picture of environmental challenges in China; legal and political challenges with respect to information transparency and public accessibility of information; and institutional and structural barriers that inhibit data collection and quality control.
  • Difficulties with data availability, access and transparency, as well as an inability to independently verify data quality and accuracy prevented the development of an aggregated provincial-level environmental performance index at this time.
  • Although we were not able to produce an aggregated, composite environmental index for China’s provinces, it is our belief that the value of our feasibility study, ‘‘Towards an environmental performance index in China,’’ lies in advancing the policy discourse and illustrating value-added for greater transparency and accessibility to environmental data and results in China. Transparency and access to information are fundamental tenets of sound environmental policymaking. Greater transparency can stimulate research and policy for developing innovations that can only help China navigate the difficult path of sustainable development.
    Please contact me if you’d like me to send you a copy of the article.
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