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Updated to: 25 February 2015Download as PDF
Country contact on SEA
Contact details for the country contact on SEA.
Appraisal Center for Environment and Engineering
China State Environmental Protection Administration
No.8 Dayangfang, Anwai,Chaoyang District, Beijing 100012
Tel: +8610 5109 5493
Fax: +8610 5109 5482
Country's planning system
Brief description of planning practice, specifically whether it take place more often at centralised or decentralised level, what kind of national level planning and sectoral planning takes place, etc.
The former Ministry of Construction (MOC) was replaced by the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development (MOHURD) to be in charge of planning administration at National level. The provincial Construction Administrations/ Commissions and Planning Bureaus are in charge of planning administration at provincial levels. The Municipal and County Planning Bureaus are in responsible for the planning administartion at local levels.
History of SEA
Brief description of the history of SEA in the country, including when it was introduced and any major milestones in its development.
The significance of SEA has attracted expert attention in China since the 1980s. Over the years, several documents and regulations stipulating SEA-like characateristics have been produced calling for the integration of Environment into development and decision making. These documents include: (i) 21 Century Agenda of China: White Book of China’s Population, Environment and Development (1994); (ii) 21 Century Agenda of China’s Environmental Protection (1995) (iii) The State Council’s Decision on Some Environmental Protection Problems (1996); (iv) The State Council’s Document on Establishment of SEPA (Document No. 5, 1998).
In 1993, Regional Environmental Impact Assessment (REIA) was introduced and EIA was extended from individual projects to wider development zones.
The EIA law promulgated in 2002 and implemented from September 2003 provided the legal basis for Plan Environmental Impact Assessment (PEIA), a preliminary version of SEA. It embraced the strategic dimension of assessment practices in China, but as it only was applied for plans, its scope was smaller than the one of SEA. Further impetus was given to the law when a Circular on Improving the Implementation of PEIA was issued in 2006 and when in 2009 the Regulations of Planning Environmental Impact Assessment were released by the State Council. The implementation of Plan EIA remined challenging though.
The revised Environmental Protection Law from 2014 extends the scope of environmental assessment requirements in China. It instructs central and provincial level governments to carry out EIAs for their economic and technological policies. EA shall thus now be conducted for policies as well, not only for plans.
Legal framework for SEA
Name of first enabling legislation that sets the framework for SEA.
The Law of People Republic of China on Environmental Impact Assessment (promulgated in 2002, into effect on sept. 2003) laid the institutional foundation for SEA in China.
Approving authority of enabling law
The authority that approved the enabling law for SEA.
The Law of People Republic of China on Environmental Impact Assessment was approved by the National People's Congress.
First national detailed SEA regulation
First national detailed regulation (procedural requirements) for SEA, through which SEA was operationalized.
The Law of People Republic of China on Environmental Impact Assessment (promulgated in 2002, into effect on sept. 2003) provides in its Chapter 3 rather detailed procedural requirements for the environmental assessment of plans, although not yet complete.
Approving authority of first detailed SEA regulation
The authority that approved the first detailed SEA regulation (procedural requirements)
The Law of People Republic of China on Environmental Impact Assessment was approved by the National People's Congress.
Recent updates and additions to the SEA legislation
Revisions of the SEA provisions in the enabling law or the national detailed SEA regulation (procedural requirements) are named. The year is listed, and the main changes since the first regulation are mentioned, if available. Also, additional relevant SEA-related legislation that has been published since the first legislation is listed.
Following the provisions made in the law on EIA, the following more specific regulations on SEA were issued:
- Provisions on Review the Environmental Impact Statements for Specific Plans (SEPA order No. 3, 2003);
- Scope of the Plans to Prepare the Environmental Impact Statements (On trial) and the Scope of the Plans to prepare the Environmental Impact Chapters or notes (On trial) (SEPA document  98)
- Circular on Improving the Implementation of PEIA (2006)
- Regulations of Planning Environmental Impact Assessment (2009). These regulations specified the requirements for the Plan-EIA procedure as determined in the law on EIA further.
The revised Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China from the 24th of April 2014 extends EIA obligations beyond specific projects to the development of economic and technical policies. It has been approved by the Standing Committee of the Twelfth National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China.
Sector specific procedures/regulations
Any existing sectoral procedure/regulations are listed here, as well as the authority that issued each.
Any government issued guidelines on SEA (general or sectoral) are listed here, as well as the authority that issued each. Describes the legal status of the guidelines.
The following general technical guidelines for PEIA have been issued:
- Technical guidelines for plan environmental impact assessment (On trial) (HJ/T 130-2003)
- The Guideline on Plan-EIA (trial use) (HJ/T130-2003) is released to facilitate the implementation of Plan-EIA.
Article 9 in Plan-EIA regulations (2009) requires that further technical guidelines of PEIA are formulated by the competent authority of environmental protection of the State Council together with relevant ministries and commissions of the State Council.
Furthermore, technical specifications of PEIA for different sectors are formulated by relevant ministries and commissions of the State Council. The following technical guidelines have already been developed:
- Technical Guidelines for PEIAs on Master development Plans of Coal Mining Areas
- Key Points for Technical Review of PEIA Reports of Harbour Master Development Planning
The technical guidelines can be accessed via the following link.
The objective of SEA as stated in the above described legal basis.
The Plan-EIA regulations (2009) mention that PEIA helps to improve the scientific rationality of planning and the development plans, to prevent environmental pollution and ecological degradation at source, and to boost comprehensive, harmonized sustainable development of the economy, the society and the environment.
Scope of SEA application
Describes for which planning processes (at policy, programme and plan level) SEA is required.
SEA in China applies to plans and policies.
Exemptions from SEA application
Are any specific types of plans explicitly excluded from SEA application?
No exemptions are provided within the mandatory scope including the so-called one-land, three-regions and ten-specific-industries.
Describes the current overall SEA approach. Specifically: Has the country's SEA procedure been modeled on the existing EIA approach? Or has a separate SEA approach been developed?
The SEA approach chosen in China is EIA-based. SEA is merely refered to as Plan-EIA.
SEA tiering with EIA
Are there any provisions for tiering of EIA and SEA?
The Plan-EIA regulations (2009) provide for tiering of EIA and SEA in Article 23. It determines that for plans that involve specific construction projects, the conclusions of the PEIA shall be used as an important basis for the EIA of these projects. Further it mentions that the contents of project EIAs shall be simplified according to the analyses and arguments of the PEIA.
Provisions for tiering are also given in the General Technical Guidelines for EIA (2011). It is there mentioned that the role of a project has to be considered in the development of a plan.
Institutional setting for SEA
Central SEA authority
Is there a central authority in charge of the SEA system as a whole, responsible for issuing guidelines etc? If so, is it independent or linked to a higher body (e.g. ministry)?
THe MEP or EPBs and/or Environmental and Resources Committees at all levels of the People's Congeress Council are the central PEIA authorities.
One function of MEP that is directly related to SEA:
- performing EIA of key economic and technical policies, development plans and major economic development plans
Mandate for exemption of SEA obligation
Is there a legal mandate for a competent authority to make exemptions of SEA obligation? If yes, under which conditions (e.g. national security, disasters or no conditions/when deemed necessary)?
No exemptions are made.
(De)centralisation of SEA mandates
Are SEA mandates (de)centralised? Vertical decentralization refers to the extent to which the responsibility for SEA processes is delegated by the central government to the provincial or local authorities. Sectoral or horizontal decentralization refers to the reassignment of decision-making authority on SEA to government units on a sectoral basis.
Decision making is decentralised vertically but only to the provincial, city and district levels. The administrative level of the competent authority that is responsible for the approval of plans differs for different types of plans (see category screening). Decisions on comprehensive plans take place at and above provincial level, while decisions on special plans are also taken by the government at or above municipality level.
The PEIA process seems to be decentralized in general, as the Plan-EIA regulations (2009) determine that governments of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities shall require the county governments under their jurisdiction to implement PEIA on plans, according to local situations. Also, detailed measures shall be formulated according to the EIA Law by governments of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities.
Furthermore, sectoral decentralization takes place as technical specifications of PEIA are formulated for individual sectors.
Initiator of the SEA
Who initiates the SEA? Should the plan owner initiate and undertake the SEA or is an environmental authority responsible for undertaking the SEA. If an authority is responsible, which authority and at which level?
The plan owners are responsible for initiating and conducting SEA.
Overview SEA procedure
Short text characterizing the overall SEA procedure. If relevant, interesting aspects of the SEA procedure are mentioned such as: which procedural steps are part of the SEA procedure and are they based on procedures defined for EIA (screening, scoping ect)? How are they related to each other? Does the legal text provide specifications regarding the timing of the start of the SEA procedure within t
The SEA process in China consists of screening, scoping, assessment, review, decision-making and follow-up. Regarding its timing, Article 7 of the Plan-EIA regulations (2009) mentions that PEIA should be applied during the course of plan-making.
Milestone documents during the SEA process are the following: Environmental Impact Chapter / SEA report, SEA review comments
Screening requirement and authority
Is a formal screening decision required? And if so, which authority is responsible for this decision? Is the decision published?
The Law on EIA (2002) determines that the governments of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities should determine, based on the local situation, whether or not PEIA is needed.
Describes the screening process for SEA (if any), who is involved and who is responsible. What kind documentation on the SEA needs to be submitted for screening?
The screening process involves distinguishing different types of plans as they require different levels of assessment. Two types of plans are distinguished in the Law on EIA (2002) and confirmed by the Plan-EIA regulations (2009) with few additions made to it:
(1) Comprehensive plans for land use, regional development, watershed and marine development, construction and utilization.
(2) Specific plans for industry, agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, energy, water management, transportation, urban construction, and tourism and nature resources.
Article 10 of the Plan-EIA regulations (2009) further distinguishes (3) directive plans which are special plans that mainly concentrate on developing strategies.
Moreover, the classified Directory for Environmental Protection management of Construction Projects also lists a few development plans (for river basin planning, coastal zones development and to reclaim land) that require EIA. These are also refered to as Regional Environmental Assessment, similar to SEA.
The different typologies of plans thus require a different assessment level as determined in Article 10 of the Plan-EIA regulations.
- For a comprehensive plan, a chapter of environmental impacts on the potential environmental effects of the implementation of proposed plan shall be written.
- For a special plan, the environmental impact statement shall be compiled prior to the submission of the plan for examination and approval.
- For a directive plan, a chapter on the environmental impacts shall be compiled.
Article 2 of the Plan-EIA Regulations (2009) further determines that PEIA should apply to plans proposed and developed by relevant ministries and commissions of the State Council and local governments (at or above municipal level with districts) and their departments. It also mentiones that the detailed scope of sectors to which PEIA applies will be drafted by the competent authority of environmental protection (CAEP) of the State Council jointly with relevant ministries and commissions of the State Council, and implemented after the State Council has ratified it.
With respect to Regional EIA (REIA), those EIAs are classified according to the classification of regional environmental plans. The following REIAs are distinguished:
- EIA for development zones
- EIA for urban construction and development
- EIA for river basin development
Maximum number of (working) days between submission of the screening request and the screening decision.
Identification of stakeholders
Are stakeholders identified early on in the SEA? Who is responsible for identifying the stakeholders? Is a communication plan developed (addressing public and government engagement, disclosure, etc?).
The methods for stakeholder identification are not specified. Involved stakeholders may include the related governmental departments, experts, planners, public, NGO, and etc.
Setting SEA objectives
Is there an early discussion on the objectives for the SEA (i.e. How it will support planning, how it will be integrated into the planning process)? Which stakeholders are involved? Are the outcomes of this discussion documented?
Implementing the SEA
Is there a distinct scoping process? Who is responsible? Who is involved? What methods (if any) are prescribed (overlays, matrices, etc)?
The scopes for the SEAs of general plans and sector plans are jointly set by the proponent, MEP and the relevant departments under the State Council and are submitted to the State Council for approval.
Participation in scoping
If here is distinct scoping, is participation part of this process? Who is involved and how?
Outcome of scoping
What are the expected outcomes of the scoping? e.g. decision criteria and suitable indicators of desired outcomes identified? If a ToR/scoping document is produced, what are the content requirements if any? Is the ToR reviewed? Is the outcome widely available?
Are there any specific requirements for data collection (for example, on protected areas)?
Are there any requirements for the alternatives to be considered in the SEA? How should alternatives be selected, ranked, compared?
There are no clear requirements for studying alternatives in PEIA.
Assessment/mitigation of effects
What are the specific requirements for assessment and mitigation of impacts as part of SEA? Any specific methods prescribed?
The Environmental Impact Chapter or the SEA report shall be compiled by plan-making departments or by certified PEIA technical institutes appointed by plan-making departments. The plan-making department is solely responsible for the quality of the SEA document though. The PEIA should analyze, predict and evaluate the following types of impacts:
- potential cumulative impacts on the ecological system of relevant regional, watershed and marine areas resulting from the implementation of the plan
- potential long-term effects on the environment and local communities resulting from the implementation of the plan
- the relationships between economic, social and environmental benefits, and current and long-term benefits resulting from the implementation of the plan.
The requirements for the content of the SEA report indicate certain methods to be used for the assessment process, namely that an environmental carrying capacity analysis, an analysis and prediction of adverse environmental impacts, and an analysis of environmental compatibility of the plan with other relevant plans shall be done.
Is the institutional setting for implementation of the plan analysed? Is there explicit attention for the identification of opportunities to strengthen environmental constituencies?
Are the assessment results documented?
The assessment results are documented in an SEA report in case of special plans and in an environmental impact chapter in case of comprehensive or directive plans.
Content of SEA report
If documentation is required, what should be contained in the SEA report?
The content of the SEA report is mentioned in Article 10 of the EIA law (2002) and further specified in Article 11 of the Plan-EIA regulations (2009).
An environmental impact chapter required for comprehensive plans and directive plans shall contain the following elements:
(1) analyses, predictions and assessment of the potential environmental effects of the implementation of the plan.
(2) countermeasures and solutions to prevent or reduce adverse environmental impacts, including policies, management measures and technical measures.
For the SEA report of special plans, the above mentioned aspects should be included as well as the following additional element:
(3) the conclusions of the environmental impact assessment of the plan. These can include the environmental rationality and feasibility of the draft plan, the rationality and effectiveness of countermeasures, solutions to prevent or reduce
adverse environmental impacts, and suggestions on
how the draft plan should be adjusted.
It is further mentioned that the comments of the public
shall be documented in the SEA report.
Describes the requirements for SEA review. Specifically: Who reviews the SEA? An independent body? Environmental Authority? Is the review approach similar to EIA review in the country?
The requirements for the review of the SEA report depend on the administrative level on which the special plan is examined and approved.
For special plans which are approved and examined by provincial governments, the SEA report review and approval process is conducted by the competent authority of environmental protection of the State Council together with relevant ministries and commissions of the State Council.
For special plans that are examined and approved by local governments (at or above municipal level), the SEA report is reviewed by a SEA review team. This team consists of experts and representatives from relevant departments and is formed by the respective competent authority of environmental protection. The SEA review team examines the SEA report of the plan and provides written review comments on it. The review comments shall include the following elements:
(1) authenticity of the original data and information used;
(2) appropriateness of the assessment methods used;
(3) reliability of environmental impacts analysis, prediction, and evaluation;
(4) reasonability and effectiveness of the suggested countermeasures and solutions to prevent or mitigate adverse environmental impacts;
(5) rationality of the statement that explains whether the comments and suggestions from the public have been adopted or not; and
(6) scientific validity of the conclusions of PEIA process. Article 20 and 21 describe criteria to support the review decision taken by the review examination team, namely it lists conditions which, if they occur, indicate that the SEA report must be revised and the revisions should be re-assessed afterwards or that the SEA report should not be approved.
Participation in review
Are there any arrangements for participation in review? Who is involved? How is their involvement arranged?
The EIA law (2002, Article 11) and the Plan-EIA regulations (2009, Article 13) provide for public participation in the draft SEA phase in cases where the public are likely to be affected. The authority that draws up the plan shall then conduct questionnaires, hold workshops, seminars, forums and/or hearings to solicit comments and suggestions on the EIS from relevant institutions, experts and the public. This shall be done prior to the submission of the draft plan for examination and approval. If the conclusions of relevant institutions, experts and the public regarding the EIR differs stronglym, then the plan-making department shall hold further forums, hearings or other forms of meetings. The planning authority shall consider the comments seriously and the it should document the comments or suggestions made by the public in the EIR. There the authority should state whether they have been adopted or not why that is so.
Also, the written explanations of the competent authority describing the reasons why some conclusions of the SEA report and the review comments were not considered for the SEA approval decision can be reviewed by relevant departments, experts and the public and is archived for future checks.
What is the timeline given for the review of the SEA, in (working) days?
Informing and influencing decision-making
SEA and planning decision-making
What is the formal role of SEA in decision-making on the plan? Is SEA approval needed before a planning decision can be made?
In order to ensure the implementation of the SEA system and in order to make it more efficient, it is regulated that the SEA report should be submitted with the draft special plan. This guarantees that the approving authority should have a comprehensive understanding of the environmental protection approaches and measures of the special plan. Once the draft SEA report is reviewed and approved, it is thus included in the draft special plan. The plan-making department will submit the plan (including the SEA report) to the competent authority of planning examination and approval (PEAA), which takes the decision on the plan approval. If the SEA report is not included in the draft plan, the plan will not be examined or approved by the competent authority. Thus an SEA report approval is needed for the approval of the draft plan.
Similar conditions apply for draft comprehensive plans and draft directive plans which require a environmental impact chapter in order to be approved by the competent authority.
Recommendations for decision-making
How are the results of the SEA and participation translated into recommendations for decision-making on the plan?
The legislation stipulates that the decision on the approval of a special plan shall be mainly based on the conclusions of the SEA report and the comments from the SEA review process.
However, the environment is only one aspect to consider for the decision as the approving authority has to take into account a comprehensive balance between economic, social and environmental development, as well as national security. Hence, for unfavorable conclusions and reviewing comments, the approving department can also decide to not adopt them.
Justification of decision
Does policy/programme/plan adoption decision-making have to be justified on the basis of the SEA?
In case the conclusions of the SEA report and the reviewing comments are not adopted by the competent authority for taking the decision on the plan approval, a written statement should be provided that explain for each conclusion or comment why it was not adopted.
Is there a requirement for implementation of decisions to be monitored? What is the role of SEA outcomes in this monitoring? What provisions exits for action to be undertaken if environmental problems occur?
There is a technical requirement for compliance monitoring on PEIA reports, as well as on monitoring of the actual impacts of the plan. The planning departments is responsible for conducting such monitoring and for reporting the monitoring results to the authorities (e.g. NDRC) which approve the plans. Also they inform the environmental departments about the results when much more severe environmental effects than initially expected are observed.
The following elements should be part of the follow-up assessment for PEIA:
(1) comparative analysis and evaluation between actual and predicted environmental impacts, as the plan is implemented;
(2) analysis and evaluation of the effectiveness of countermeasures and solutions adopted to prevent or mitigate adverse environmental impacts;
(3) comments from the public on environmental impacts, as the plan is implemented;
(4) conclusions of the follow-up assessment for PEIA.
In the course of the the follow-up, opinions are seeked from relevant departments, experts and the public. The following methods can be used for this: questionnaires, on-site interviews, hearings and others. In case significant adverse impacts are identified during the plan implementation process, different actors are involved in developing the measures taken. The planning authority shall then immediately identify corrective measures and report them to the competent authority of plan examination and approval (PEAA), and inform the competent authority of environmental protection (CAEP). The CAEP will then check the findings on the adverse impacts and once this is confirmed provide suggestions on corrective measures or plan revisions to the PEAA. When the PEAA has received report from the planning authority and from the CAEP, a discussion is organized to reformulate the plan and determine new mitigation measures.
Is there a formal requirement to evaluate the SEA? Similarly, to evaluate plan implementation before the next round of plan development? Are the two connected in this SEA system?
No formal requirements to evaluate the SEA was found, but some indications that the follow-up assessment is helpful to improve the methodologies and system of PEIA through experience accumulation.
Annual no. of SEAs
Gives an estimation for the number of SEAs that are produced annually in this country.
MEP approves at the national level about 50 PEIAs per year.
Central SEA database
Is there a central database or library where information on SEAs is kept (i.e. where all SEAs are registered and/or copies are archived). If so, what is kept there and is this information publicly accessible?
All EIA/SEA reports and their review records are kept in ACEEs at central and local levels. They available for public inquiry if applications for it are approved.
Any SEA practice review studies that have been done (by governmental agencies or others) are listed here. Where relevant, links to studies are included, and the main conclusions of the studies are summarised.
Strategic Environmental Assessment and its development in China. Che Xiuzhen, Shang Jincheng, Wang Jinhu. Environmental Impact Assessment Review (22), 2002, pp101-109.
Framework and operational procedure for implementing Strategic Environmental Assessment in China. Bao Cun-kuan, Lu Yong-sen, Shang Jin-cheng.Environmental Impact Assessment Review (24), 2004, pp.27-46.
Requirements for Strategic Enviornmental Asessment in China. Tan Zhu Jing Wu and I-Shin Chang, 2004. In Journal of Enviornmental Assessment Policy and Management, vol 7, no. 1 (March 2005) pp, 81-97.
Tianwei L., Jingming R., Xiaoli L., Zhanchao W. & Yuan Z. (2014). Part I: The Practices and Experiences of Strategic Environmenta Assessment on the Key Industries' Development in the Five-mega Regions. In Strategic Environmental Assessment Effectiveness: Learning from Experience in China and the Netherlands. Appraisal Center for Environment and Engineering, Ministry of Environmenal Protection of China and Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment.
SEA case studies on which information is available are listed here, including a link to case documentation, if available.
SEA scoping study on China’s railway sector. The study was completed in June 2006 with a grant from the Italian Trust Fund. It has helped the China Ministry of Railways improve its understanding of SEA and be better prepared for planning its investment programs and the Bank operations.
SEA for urban and transport planning in Guiyang City, China. In support of the implementation of the World Bank Guiyang Transport Project, the program has been assisting the city in preparing the SEA. The French Development Agency is providing the funding to the project. The procurement of consulting services is under way.
SEA of provincial road network plans in Hubei Province, China. The SEA aims to assist the provincial government to strengthen its environmental assessment capacity in road network planning. A scoping study has been carried out with a small grant from Japan. SIDA has provided a trust fund to support the work, which would be the capacity building component of a new World Bank highway lending project.
Professional bodies relevant to SEA practice, such as SEA Associations, Planning Associations, etc are listed here.
- Centre for Strategic Environmental Assessment for China, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
- Chinese academy for environmental planning
Sets out any ongoing training programmes (including professional and academic training) and major training events held in the past (with focus on recent events).
Links to laws/regulation
Links to relevant SEA laws or regulations.
Other relevant links on SEA
Other relevant links on SEA in the country are given here.