Main content area

Jurisdictional air pollution regulation in China: A tragedy of the regulatory anti-commons

Guo, Shihong, Lu, Jiaqi
Journal of cleaner production 2019 v.212 pp. 1054-1061
air pollution, air pollution control, air quality, environmental governance, models, public health, social welfare, China
Air pollution imposes serious challenges to China's social welfare and public health. Existing environmental management framework, which holds county-level governments accountable for the quality of environment within their individual jurisdiction, does not cope effectively with air pollution control. Fragmentation resulted from this jurisdictional regulation model creates responsibility conflicts, causes free-rider problems, and increases cooperation costs. In short, it is inefficient and ineffective. We consider the situation to be a tragedy of the regulatory anti-commons. Using a spatial regression design, we examine the relationship between air quality and jurisdictional fragmentation. The results show that jurisdictional density – the number of regulatory units per km2 within a prefecture-level city – has a significantly negative effect on air quality, which means jurisdictional fragmentation raises the likelihood of a tragedy of the regulatory anti-commons. Our analysis both provides a new lens to the study of environmental governance in China and provides an empirical case to the anti-commons literature.