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Air pollution governance in China and India: Comparison and implications

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Wang, P., Liu, D., Mukherjee, A., Agrawal, M., Zhang, H., Agathokleous, E., Qiao, X., Xu, X., Chen, Y., Wu, T., Zhu, M., Saikawa, E., Agrawal, S. B., & Feng, Z. (2023). Air pollution governance in China and India: Comparison and implications. Environmental Science & Policy142, 112-120.


Abstract: Severe air pollution in China and India threatens the health of over one-third of the global population. When it comes to air pollution governance, the two countries have vastly different approaches. China’s approach features centralized target-setting and implementation, with policies enforced primarily through top-down administrative lines. While India’s approach reflects the division of power among central and state governments and relies substantially on legislative and judiciary systems for accountability. We conduct a detailed review of the trends and sources of six air pollutants in China and India, and make a structured comparison of China and India’s air pollution policy frameworks. An extensive literature review is conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of policies in each country. The studies show that China’s policy efforts have achieved significant improvements in air quality, while India’s policies have been largely ineffective. Nevertheless, both approaches have the potential to lead to effective air pollution governance, if a country can build strong political will and clearly defined accountability systems. We further identify key lessons learned from the two countries for air pollution policymaking in developing countries, including taking good advantage of “post-crisis policy window”, and targeting “low-hanging fruits” to make incremental improvements in a cost-effective way.

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