The Chinese legislature has voted in favor of changes to its environmental policies for the first time in 25 years. The new law gives government the ability to levy unlimited fines against polluters in a country with some of the world’s worst air quality and widespread pollution. Under the new anti-pollution laws set come into effect on January 1, 2015, Chinese companies violating the regulations will be subject to unlimited fines along with public naming and shaming, while executives in charge could spend up to 15 days in prison. Local governments will also be held accountable for covering up environmental breaches, while Chinese citizens will be encouraged to “adopt a low-carbon and frugal lifestyle” and “perform environmental protection duties.”

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It took more than two years of debate amongst the Chinese government to arrive at changes to the environmental laws, which previously issued fines that were so low it was cheaper for companies to violate the laws and emissions standards than to install pollution-control technology in factories. But in March, Chinese President Xi Jinping “declared war” on pollution, saying that it’s “nature’s red-light warning against the model of inefficient and blind development.”

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The news comes as an increasing number of families are leaving Hong Kong due to dangerous levels of air pollution that are making them concerned about life expectancy – and American scientists are issuing concerns that pollution from China, India and other Southeast Asian industrial economies is contributing to erratic weather patterns and climate change around the world.

Recently released data by the Chinese government also reveals significant pollution in other areas of China’s environment, including pollution of 16 per cent of the country’s soil, 20 per cent of its farmland and 60 per cent of its groundwater. Since China’s first environmental protection laws came into effect in 1989, the country has grown significantly to become the world’s second largest economy and biggest carbon dioxide emitter – backed by a booming industrial economy largely fueled by coal-fired electricity. Despite that fact, China is also the world’s biggest wind-power and hydroelectric producer, but its renewable energy ambitions have not been able to keep up with demand.

Via The Guardian

Flickr Creative Commons photos by Francisco Anzola and Harald Groven