China proposes double taxes on excess emissions

The State Council, China’s cabinet, on Wednesday released for public opinion a draft law on environmental taxes, which proposes business taxes for pollutants, solid waste and noise.

The draft proposed rates ranging from 350 yuan ($57) to 11,200 yuan on various industrial noises according to the decibels level.

It also set rates of 1.2 yuan on a stipulated quantity of air pollutants, 1.4 yuan on a stipulated quantity of water pollutants, and a range of 5 to 30 yuan for each ton of different kinds of solid waste.

Rates will be doubled for emissions in excess of the stipulated amount.

Taxes may also be halved if emissions are below half the national standard.

Provincial governments may “appropriately” raise rates taking local environmental conditions into account.

The draft was drawn up by the Ministry of Finance, State Administration of Taxation and Ministry of Environmental Protection to promote an “energy saving, and environmentally friendly” industrial system, according to the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council.

Instead of taxing polluters, China currently collects a “pollutant discharge fee” that almost equals the standard tax amount in the draft law.

For each outlet for waste air and water, authorities can tax at most three major pollutants, but that number could reach five if the pollutants are all heavy metals. This still allows provincial governments to increase the categories of pollutants subject to taxation based on their “special needs”.

On Tuesday, Environment Minister Chen Jining said, “the Chinese environment is reaching or has reached its limit.”

Chen characterized the overall Chinese environment as “poor”, with high pollutant emissions, serious ecological damage and high risks, which are all very far from public expectations.

He said the government will take “more forceful” measures in the next five years to protect the environment and promote green development.

According to the draft, the tax will exclude pollutants from agriculture except those from large-scale animal husbandry and mobile pollution sources including motor vehicles, locomotives, non-road mobile machinery, ships and aircraft as long as the pollutants are within national standards.

Normal emissions by urban sewage and refuse treatment plants will also be exempted.

No punishment is specified for tax evasion or fraud, merely that tax authorities should report such violations to the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

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