China’s rapid economic development has lead to a high demand for resources, severe environmental degradation and a high emission of GHG. Furthermore, with China’s massive rural population increasingly moving into the cities, the pressure for industrialization and urbanization is stronger than ever. Facing these challenges, the central government has already issued several series' of laws, regulations and policies, to guide lower level administrations in establishing a resource-conserving and environmental-friendly society. Local governments, implementing these guidelines under various economic and social conditions, are the key to ecologically sound development. As with the economic reforms starting in the late 1970s, local governments are experimenting with exceptional pilot programs for a “greener future”.
This dissertation will explore why and how some local governments are starting to take steps towards environmentally-friendly economic development. This study is inspired by environmental best practices in Germany and China’s wide variation of local efforts towards achieving a low carbon economy. Case studies of three Chinese cities, namely Tianjin, Wuxi and Baoding, will be examined and compared to the German cities of Berlin, Hamburg and Freiburg. By exploring the impact of relevant political, economic and social factors, this dissertation aims to identify concrete problems in China’s local implementation of environmental policy and shed light on how local governments can overcome these challenges to achieve environmentally-friendly economic development.