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Bernadette Brennan’s Blog

Rio and China's Pollution Information Transparency Index (PITI)

Bernadette Brennan

Posted June 15, 2012

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Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration affirmed the importance of access to environmental information.  Since 2008, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the renowned Chinese NGO, Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs (IPE), have cooperated to promote open environmental information in China.  We are happy to report that a system of open environmental information has been established in China, at least in its initial stages.

 A cornerstone of this newly emerging system of open environmental information is the annual Pollution Information Transparency Index (PITI).  PITI assesses government performance.  It is a valuable tool and, like most good tools, it is designed to perform a specific function.  PITI ranks Chinese municipal governments on a 100-point scale, using desk and field research to assess how well they comply with regulations that require them to release certain environmental information.[1]

The PITI assessment has fostered a race-to-the-top of good environmental governance.  Local administrators approach us for guidance on how to improve their performance, and the average PITI score has risen steadily from 31.06 in 2008, to 36.14 in 2009, and to 40.14 in 2010, a roughly 22% increase over three years.  The PITI assessment methodology is transferable to other countries that are keen to encourage local governments to release environmental information that is within their possession and control.

 While PITI is a valuable tool for the promotion of open environmental information, it is important to remember that PITI does not supply actual pollution emission data.  For that, one must turn to a disclosure system like the Toxics Release Inventory in the United States (TRI), the National Pollution Inventory in Australia (NPI), the Pollution Inventory in the UK (PI) or the Pollution Release and Transfer Registries (PRTR) that operate in Japan and most of Europe.  NRDC and IPE are currently working to bring such a disclosure system to China.

On the world stage, the E-PRTR of the European Union (EU) is an example of an international PRTR. E-PRTR is a European-wide registry that provides access toenvironmental data from industrial facilities in EU member States, as well as those located in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Serbia and Switzerland.[2]E-PRTR provides all stakeholders (e.g., governments; academics; corporations; the market; and local communities) with a Europe-wide industrial release and transfer database.[3]  It is an operating model of international environmental cooperation.

But, the E-PRTR is nothing on its own; it relies on domestic systems to inform the international program.  To promote a strong domestic system in China, NRDC will continue to cooperate with IPE to produce the PITI to encouragegovernments to continue to release environmental information, and we will continue to collaborate with the Ministry of Environmental Protection to explore user-friendly systems, such as PRTR or TRI, for corporate disclosure of everyday pollution emissions in China. As such, we hope our work here, and elsewhere, carries on the spirit of Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration.


[1] China State Council “Regulation of the People’s Republic of China on Open Government Information”and the China Ministry of Environmental Protection “Measures on Open Environmental Information (Trial).”



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